Tuesday, 30 March 2010

The Secret of Kells Review

Its quite rare that you find a feature-length animation that is beautiful in every frame while still retaining a great story and holding the audience in its grasp from start to finish and beyond. the music was also very good, I found myself humming the tune 'you must go where I cannot' for a while afterwards. It is a lovely tale, suitable for all ages and has that magic that all fairy tales have while remaining very original.

The design is beautifully crafted and works to successfully combine the smooth shapes and flat colours of the characters with the colourful, textured backgrounds full of complex shapes and patterns. The characters are simplistic but fluid and smooth, built of simple shapes with flowing lines. Everything is simplified and abstracted while still clearly describing the action and story.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Barry Purves- Quick notes

I went to listen to the Barry Purves talk and he truly does have a passion for animation. I was so interested that I didn't end up making many notes at all, just a few quick ones that I thought would be very useful tips to remember.

When King Kong breaks the T-Rex's jaw in the original movie there is a moment of doubt- is it really dead? The puppet shows a thought process that gives it a greater sense of being alive. The same sequence is replicated in the remake with a CGI Kong too, Barry was a part of the production and made sure the scene that showed Kong's intelligence and thinking processes was included.

Mary Poppins's talking umbrella- While not an animation it demonstrates that puppets have no inhibitions, they can say whats not being said.

"Give a man a mask and he'll tell you the truth"

Barry showed one of his films, Screen Play, a beautifully made stop motion set on a stage, similar to his Shakespeare animation, Barry uses animation subtly in the magic of the theatre where transitions are made by sliding screens and scenery. It is also a lovely story.

Barry emphasised that everything that goes into a film, characters, colour, lighting, etc must all add up to tell the same story.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Flatpack Festival Review- Shorts on Walls

This year’s flatpack festival was a big success, and I enjoyed event that I attended and took full advantage of my free wristband given as thanks for volunteering.

Shorts on walls was an opportunity to network with fellow animators and professionals and watch the region’s short films. It was a mix of work from both students and professionals. I also took the opportunity to hand out flyers for our end of year Animageddon. Here are some of the films shown.

First up was A Model Christmas by Chris Randall. A combination of creature comforts and Lego, shoppers around Birmingham city centre were asked “What would you like to win this Christmas?” and the vocals were used with the Lego characters in a quirky stop motion animation. As it was ‘what you like to win’ as apposed to ‘what would you like’ it allowed the people interviewed to be as ambitious as they liked with their ‘prizes’.

Dougie’s First Day was a stop motion animation that uses slapstick humour as its main device. Though some of the gags were funny, they seemed a bit repetitive after a while but I enjoyed the style of the animation.

Trolley was an interesting film about quiet young man, misunderstood by his peers. I enjoyed the mix of live action and animation in this one, the animation used to express the guy’s quirky imagination, entertaining thoughts of conquering the taunting individuals with a giant metallic bird and a dragon made of trolleys.

Arguing is a Nice Hobby was a CGI animation about an old couple who argue a lot at each other, they then get signed a record deal where their shouting matches make them famous. I wasn’t too keen on this animation, I liked the style of the characters but they seemed a bit too simplistic for the poses and emotions targeted. Also the story didn’t have much to it other than the novelty of an old couple arguing on stage in a rock band.

Bicycle Diaries/ Revolution by Steve Chamberlain was an interesting film constructed from videos of Steve’s long cycle across Mexico overlaid with a rotoscoping and abstraction technique that worked well to make the videos more like memories of a journey, fragmented time where one day blends into the next with the turning of a bicycle wheel.

The highlight of the evening was Moonbird by the Brothers McLeod, a dark fairy tail about a little girl and an evil witch, a story of an ultimate battle of dark and light. The use of black and white emphasises the good and evil sides, and the soundtrack works fantastically with the visuals. Definitely a must- see for all.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Story Board

I decided to combine most of my cat storyboards to make a longer film. This would make it more suitable for festivals as well as making it long enough (or more than long enough) for the One Minute to Save the World campaign if they decide to hold another competition.

Cat wants to get outside, but when the owner opens the door and the cat sees that its raining heavily, he changes his mind and backs away (if you've ever owned cats, this will be familiar to you). Frustrated, the owner makes the cat go outside anyway. Having rained through the night, the owner opens his curtains to find his cat perched precariously on the ledge, avoiding the water level that has risen to the upper level of the house. At which point the message is revealed 'Don't let climate change take you by surprise' (or something similar) followed by the website address (climatecats.co.uk is available so I might choose that for a name.)

The idea is to entertain the audience enough with the film, or provoke enough curiosity that they visit the website where there will be more information about the topic, as well as a bit more humor so the audience doesn't feel falsely lured.

I tried to incorporate the tips from the Ed Hooks lecture, each character having an action in pursuit of an objective, overcoming an obstacle. The cats objective is to go outside, his obstacle is the door and the man who has to open it. When the door is open we see the cat's objective change when he sees the rain, he now wants to stay inside to keep dry. The man's objective is to put the cat outside, his conflict is with the cat who has decided against it.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Cats in animation

Cats are proud creatures even if they embarrass themselves, they hold their heads and tales high as if nothing had happened. I really like the animation of the big fat Persian cat in Peter and the Wolf. See below.

I like the design of the cat in this old soviet animation, The Tree and the Cat. Its movements are realistic but the design is exaggerated from the proportions of a cat, especially the long neck, which in this case works well to make the cat look all the more elegant.

Lovely story too and moral.

Simon's cat is a very funny series about a guy and his cat.

I like how the cat always has an objective, in this one its to wake his sleeping owner and get fed. He has to resort to increasingly desperate measures to do so.

The Cat Came Back is an obvious example of an action in persuit of an objective overcoming many obsticles.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

1 minute to save the world + viral advertising

I came across this competition called 1 minute to save the world when searching for current climate change campaigns:

"The Competition

A short film competition on climate change inviting entrants and viewers from all over the world. The story of climate change will be told by the people it is affecting - you. We hope that your shared perspectives and creative responses will help us all understand, adapt and take action in response to a rapidly changing world in time to save it and ourselves.

The Campaign

Advertisers and multi-nationals have long known the value of even just one minute of film. With the help of our international Partners we will use your entries as a platform to carry your voices far and wide in a global campaign for the planet rallying public and political support in the lead up to the Copenhagen Climate Conference and continuing until CO2 targets have been met. To take part all you need to do is creatively respond to the challenge of climate change using film as your medium.

We’re asking you to use whatever means you have to film your short and use your minute to speak up and make the world listen. We hope you will feel inspired to add your creative voice to this global climate campaign."

Details on the 2010 competition haven't been announced yet, but I think one minute of film is a good target, especially as I'll also be showing my film (s) at various festivals. My initial idea upon reading this brief was to combine all my cat storyboards into one, focusing on the impacts of flooding. An award was given for one of the films last year for most virally distributed. Surprise surprise its got a cat in it! See here.

After seeing that however, I know i can't do the same thing if I want to enter the same competition. I do like the idea of cats though, and they do boost viral viewings. Cats against climate change has had more than 300,000 views on YouTube and has appeared on the Viral Video Chart

Its one of only a few environmental videos that has gone viral. The main reason videos go viral is that they provide entertainment, if a video isn't entertaining, it won't go viral. Sometimes an exciting title can have an effect, like The Most Terrifying Video You'll Ever See it can lure an audience in, but the audience probably won't appreciate being cheated when they're expecting to be entertained. Some companies use marketing strategies to boost their viral viewings, its explained more in this article. I'm not sure I agree with all of their methods, but some things like posting my video on social networking sites could definitely be implemented.

Saturday, 6 March 2010


This is my cat Sparky, I tried to sketch him from life but whenever he was doing anything interesting, it normally only lasted a couple of seconds. Plus the movement of my pencil was far more interesting to him than being still.

I filmed him for a while, playing with a bit of tissue on dangling cotton. I then sketched from the freeze frames so I could capture more active movements.

I'll try again when he's in a better mood.