Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Ed Hooks Masterclass

On the 15th of February we went to a masterclass by Ed Hooks. Ed Hooks has been teaching drama for over 20 years and has appeared in American Sitcoms such as 'Days of our lives'. Recently over the last 5-6 years he has been teaching animators how to act within the games and film industry. During the lecture I took down many notes which helped me look at character performance in a whole new other way.

The Difference between us (animators) and stage actors:

Stage actors work in the present moment. We do no have a present moment, we have an illusion of the present moment.

No emotion without thinking.

The definition of Emotion: Emotion is an automatic value response.
Every character has different values and therefore emotion would be an automatic response towards these values which often doesnt require thinking.

Empathy (Feeling to) VS Sympathy (Feeling for)

Empathy involves identifying yourself with the character rather then feeling sorry for the character. Humans only empathise with emotion which is why characters need heart unless the character is a sociopath as they do not empathise. The word empathy came around in 1926, prior to that they used the word sympathy for empathy which is why even now many people still do not use the term properly.

One of the necessities for empathy is distance. We as humans would not empathise with a character we can control such as in games which is why cinematics are used to swith empathy on and off.

A person who will not get it together is pursuing death and we as humans need to distance ourselves in order for our survival.


Theatrical Reality VS Regular Reality.

The difference between these two is that regular reality shows absolutely everything whereas theatrical reality is selected in order to tell a story.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Making a head

So the title states making a head and thats exactly what we did. This task was individually done and it required three heads to be made out of plasticine. We were told that we could use the designs from a previous project, the exxageration and morphing project from the illusion of life module (which sadly I haven't managed to find the animation for). However I still had the caricature style drawings for that project and decided to go with them drawings.

Just as a recap the drawing was of my flatmate Dami, I started really by taking front and side profile pictures of him on my laptop and then drew accurately the same pictures. I looked at features which I could cartoonise and worked on them... I made the eyes big and menacing as my flatmate is quite an intimidating guy, I enlarged most features such as nose, mouth, lips and chin and to top it off I gave him a cap.

These are the picture which I based my drawings off so I did what any cartoonist would do and exxagerated the features to create my caricature. My drawings were quite loosely based and I didnt really take any inspiration from any caricaturists but I jus tried focusing on exxageration and eventually ended up with some drawings I was quite happy with.

I caricatured other random celebrities (mainly rappers) and then using the pictures of Dami I did the accurate sketches. I finally moved onto the caricatured faces as I had some sort of idea of what I wanted.

These are my finished caricature drawings with 3 exxagerated expressions. Now was the task of simply making these heads into pyhsical objects. What really helped with this task was the fact that I had already drawn side profiles as well as the front profiles so this was a great help for visualizing the heads. To make the heads was just simply putting a polystyrene ball on a stick. The reason that we use a polystyrene as the centre rather then just solid plasticine is because of weight. By using the ball it saves weight and if the head were to be placed onto an armature it would be too top heavy.


This is the first head which exxagerates the angry face. Unfortunately I dont have any pictures of the second one which was the sad face and the third head was the shocked expression.


Walk Cycle

What exactly is a walk cycle???? Well in quite simple terms, if you look at someone walking you realise they are simply repeating the movements over and over again as if they were on loop so the walk cycle covers from the first step right the way back to that same step.

How the walk cycle came about is unknown to me but I know of one man who may have helped to understand walk cycles. This man was Eadweard Muybridge (April 9, 1830 – May 8, 1904) whose work has been referenced by animators and artists for decades.

Using a device called zoopraxiscope he managed to film a horse galloping and using the stills he could put it together to create the effect of the horse galloping.

When it was put together by Muybridge it produced a motion picture which we would call a video now of a horse galloping...

Here we see how stills can effectively be used to produce a cycle. This is the basis of the walk cycle can be made. There have been many references to the walk cycle and many animators have their different techniques to create the cycle. Here is an example of how legendary animator Preston Blair describes the walk cycle amongst others in his book Advanced Animation...

As Preston Blair was an animator at Warner Bro's and worked on the Looney Toons characters, he used SQUASH AND STRETCH at a very cartoony level with very exxagerated bounces as the character walks along. The use of EXXAGERATION and ANTICIPATION is very heavily used by Blair and we can see this in all the characters. I really think this cartoon style matches the wackyness of Looney Toons and that if the animators did it in a more literal way it would not have the same impact as it does. As Bugs Bunny shows in this clip how the exxagerated style of squash and strech and anticipation can really bring the wackyness to life.

When he is pulling the cannon you can really see the walk cycle that Blair drew in the book come to life in the character of bugs bunny. The horse that catches the cannon ball is a great example of exxagerated anticipation as we see the horse rise to an extreme up postion and as the cannon ball comes into contact with him he goes straight down with the weight as it should be however in this style of exxagerated animation the horse almost does a flip on the way down with its hind legs stretched in the air and then returns to the normal position. Also looking at the way that the horses gallop you can see in comparism the difference between this video and the Muybridge horse video. This is an example of how the artistic style creates the feel of the animation.

On the other hand if we reference into the more literal way of doing a walk cycle such as studying the stills that Muybridge provides you end up with a more realistic 'normal' walk cycle.

This shows a woman walking in a very 'normal' realistic and natural way. In the Animators survival kit there is reference to creating the walk cycle using certain poses which work as the keyframes.

There is the contact position in which both feet are in contact with the ground and the arms are generally slightly infront and behind. The next keyframe would be the down position in which the front foot would go fully down and the rear leg would begin to lift with the arms now generally extending to extreme position as the body needs to maintain balance. The next keyframe would be the passing position in which the back leg passes the front one and both arms pass the body. The next keyframe would be the up position which is generally the heighest point in the walk cycle in which the front leg which has now become the back leg lifts up to tip toe and the back leg, now the front begins to extend out ready to go into the contact position once more. A quick attempt at this on ToonBoom studios really helped me visualize it although this is not a very good attempt and there are parts that look very stupid but here it is nonetheless.


I've just noticed about this walk cycle that while the legs seem to be fine, I have seriously messed up the arms which I think has been caused by simple carelessness and the fact that I did not really spend alot of time on this walk cycle. I think if I had spent more time I would've used colours to distinguish the left from right. I also would've tried and given it a slightly more natural and kinetic feel especially in the arms.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Experimental Stop Motion

For this weeks task we were put into groups and told to create an experimental stop motion animation based on one of four themes:

-Cant't remember the last one.... I remembered it now, its Dance

In our groups we had many ideas and these ideas varied in very different mediums which was the whole aim of this task, to experiment stop motion in different mediums. An example of an animator that used a very different medium was Lotte Reiniger who used silhouetted characters all made up of handcut characters. The idea of using hand cut characters is a very interesting approach to animation however it would be a very time consuming process as we can see in this video.

I really like the idea of using magazine cutouts to create a very surreal and interesting animation. One of the ideas that I had suggested to my group was to create an animation entirely of cutouts of a hand moving onto magazines and taking parts out of the magazine such as pictures of arms, legs etc and assembling itself into a humanoid character however we all agreed that this idea would be more ideal for the 6 week project and it would not be finished in a week so we decided to go with small experimental animations each only a few seconds long.

The first idea was suggested by Robyn to use rice as a medium... The animation was simple, a flower that grows from a seed. Rice as a medium is very easy to use and can be moved around and formed into anything when looking from a birds eye view. In this video you can get a rough idea of how we did it..


The only issue really with rice was that you had to be very careful when you moved it as you displace the rice when you are drawing in it so sometimes you have to just have to pinch some out. Other minor issues really are that rice is only limited to 2D and that when you get home you find grains of rice everywhere in your bag and pockets :S


The second video we made was a quick improvised idea for using the stickfas character, again in the theme of growth. The idea was to use the stickfas and just make all the limbs move into it and form into the model. I managed to film a couple of seconds while we were filming the animation.


The stickfas models are very good to use for animations as movements are not restricted and most movements we can do as humans the stickfas can also perform however due to the size of the stickfas we found it extremelt difficult to move it around accurately. We found that we knocked it alot and this is slightly apparent in the finished animation.


The third idea was my idea of using a whiteboard with a person stood infront. The original idea was to have a person stand there and on the white board a finger taps him and when he turns around the hand punches him and knocks him out however I didnt think about how I was going to draw the hand the same size each time I drew it so we decided to just go with something simple like a very big rock. Again I filmed us in the process of creating this animation.


In this animation we found it fairly easy and quick to animate and with the help of our professional actor (Jack) we could really work together in a quick and effective manner. There were actually no problems with using this white board medium apart from finding the right camera angle to make it look like the object in the whiteboard interacted with our live actor.

I think that these animations proved successful and although they weren't really amazing they taught me how working in a team effectively is a great way to produce stop motion. There were 6 of us so we could all give our own ideas and give feedback to each other. We discussed many things using previous knowledge of the basic principles... working out the arcs, timing and spacing on the whiteboard animation, looking at anticipation and exxagerating the movements of the stickfas model and the rice flower was just something different and a great way to explore how endless the list of things to animate really is.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Replacement Animation

Replacement animation is a technique by which you swap round parts of the character or the entire character even to create the illusion of animation. This is a technique that is not too widely used... well atleast not for an entire animation however there have been animators who have used the replacement technique for entire animations. One of these animators was George Pal, a Hungarian American animator who made a couple of animations under the title of Puppetoons.

This is one of the Puppetoons called Tubby the Tuba made in 1947. This animation uses the replacement technique which basically means replacing parts or even the whole character in each frame resulting in 100's of puppets needed for just one character.

In these pictures of George Pal's character puppets you can see the many number of heads for each expression and phoneme shape. This is a technique used even to this day e.g Nightmare before Christmas used the replacement technique for the heads and Aardman also used this technique on Wallace for the different mouth phonemes which I had the opportunity to see for myself at the exhibition in Coventry.

In this video we can see how many heads are needed for Jack Skellington, with heads needed for every expression, every mouth shape and every one in between. I think that this saves alot of time then having to sculpt the facial expression each frame which holds a lot of space for error so doing it beforehand is a very efficient way of doing it.

Building my armature

To create a character in plasticine requires a skeleton to support it. This skeleton is known as an 'Armature' and there are to ways to aquire an armature, buy one however this is limited only to a male humanoid character or the other option is to build an armature which is exactly what I've done.

The best wire to use for this is 1mm thick good quality wire to allow flexibility aswell as strength however there was none of the good stuff around so I used 2mm thick cheap wire and using a drill I twisted two wires together to make one thick one. This provides the majority of the armature however as the character im building is a polar bear, it needs alot of bulk and weight which I need to add to the armature.

For the limbs I covered the wire in oven hardening clay however I bought the wrong type of clay and as a result most of it melted in the oven which was a very big disaster.

I tried covering the molten plasticine (which had hardened) with foil which worked fairly decently and I found that the plasticine sticked to the non shiny side of the foil.

What I had learnt from this experience of making an armature is how NOT to make an armature... I pretty much messed this one up but by doing so I have learnt many things which I have kept tab of and will simply remember for next time.

LESSON #1 Never EVER EVER use cheap wire, specially if its 2mm thick as it is a pain in the #!$ to bend and make the right shape out of.

LESSON #2 Always attach each arm and leg separate because if you move one, the other moves aswell.

LESSON #3 Always use milliput rather then oven hardening clay (and if you are going to use oven hardening clay then make sure you buy the right stuff and dont waste £6 on something that is going to melt in the oven.

With the foil on a majority of the armature, this added a bit of bulk and I could add the polystyrene ball as the head which is where I learn't lesson #4.

LESSON #4 Plasticine DOES NOT easily stick onto polystyrene as the surface is too smooth and slippery. If you do use polystyrene then try wrapping it in cloth tape first.

I had to add an orange bag around the polystyrene ball to give it more grip. With the head attached I could start adding the plasticine to the armature which is where I learnt lesson #5.

LESSON #5 When your working in plasticine ALWAYS wash your hands after touching different colours as it stays on your hands and you get cross contamination, ESPECIALLY if your working in white.

To my disappointment (no surprises there!) I did not bulk up the armature enough to make the polar bear actually look like a polar bear so at this stage its pretty much anorexic and plasticine is running pretty low...

So this brings me to Lesson #6

LESSON #6 If your making a bulky character say for example a polar bear, it is better to build up the bulk as part of the framework in the armature rather then using plasticine to do it all.

So i've practically failed at building this armature as most of it has fallen apart before I even managed to complete it however I think this task has been extremely helpful as it acts as a learning curve from which I can take the mistakes of this attempt and not make them on the next go and hopefully produce something that is successful.

Monday, 1 February 2010

PES, Jan Svankmajer and various other stop motion animations...

To get inspiration we sometimes have to look at the works of others before us...

An interesting style is that of Jan Svankmajer, a Czech surrealist artist and animator whose animations are infamous in the animators world and have heavily inspired many other animator such as Tim Burton, The brothers Quay, Shane Acker and many many more.

By first looking at Jan Svankmajer, we can see how he works his very unique and bizarre style with a series of shorts, often making out objects to be other objects such as clothing or even body parts as food.

The use of the plasticine moulded faces which expand as the characters scoffs something down is so bizarre yet we as an audience just keep wanting to see it happen again and again... I also like the way he has made everything seem edible even though we know that its not. Other works by Jan Svankmajer include Dimensions of Dialogue (1982) and Meat Love (1988). The works of Svankmajer have inspired other animators to adapt this surrealist stop motion approach, the most famous and mainstream being Tim Burton.

Tim Burton, once a Disney concept artist created the short Vincent (1992) as a tribute to his idol Vincent Price in which Vincent Price actually narrates the story of a small boy who fantasizes that he is Vincent Price. The very quirky and surreal style is very common in the works of Burton and it can be seen running right throughout his entire career.

Another quite interesting animator I found who also uses the use of objects in very quirky and bizarre ways is Adam Pesapane (more known as PES) who is said to be inspired also by Jan Svankmajers surrealist style. His hit animation came with 'Roof Sex' (2002) which features two sofas havin sex on a New York rooftop. Other works include KaBoom (2004) Game Over (2006) Western Spaghetti (2008) and various others including many adverts.

I love the way this animation flows and how you can automatically see the real objects in the objects that PES has used such as you can see the garlic clove in the Rubix cube that is used.