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Honours Project

Progress Update – Final Stretch

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We’re now into the final week of animation before the submission of the Honours portfolio on Monday.

I met with Lynn this week to show my progress and feedback was positive. My animation still goes too fast in some places but slowing down and adding additional character actions has benefited the story and added more depth to the character.

I still have the weekend ahead of me to film the rest  but I have made some progress since the last update blog. While I’ve spent the last few days focusing on my dissertation and additional work for the graduate show, I’ve animated the character begin to form their body.

Editing

I’ve been using Stop Motion Pro 7.5 Studio HD to capture frames for the project so far. I’ve had the software for a couple of years and it has a number of useful features such as onion skinning and frame blending (taking multiple pictures at once for one frame) to reduce visual noise. One thing I’ve never managed to use well is its editor. Its difficult to add frames and move them around and if you save a clip as an AVI, its a nuisance to go back and edit once its saved out and laid in an editor. For those reasons I use Sony Vegas Pro 11.0 to lay out all the frames where I can extend, add and remove them to my liking.

I’ve set Sony Vegas to automatically set images to 0.07 seconds long which is 1 frame at 15fps (frames per second). However I also have the project settings set to 30fps so that allows me to not be constrained to 15ps, I can double frames up to work on twos or extend a frame by a half. I prefer this level of flexibility so that I am able to fine tune timings if necessary. Its important that I don’t mess around with frame rates too often as this can be jarring or look out of place.

Similar to how I approached my Lego Batman v Superman Trailer video, I’ve laid out my animatic underneath so that I can compare my captured animation to the animatic at any time. It also benefits me for scheduling and working out the pace in which I can film shots by having a visual representation of what I have left to do. Both in the Lego Batman v Superman video and this project, I’ve managed to become very good at scheduling my time when it comes to animation. My time management everywhere else is still mixed.

Audio

I’ve began to source sound effects and will record my own voice to add to the character. The animation will still be unspoken but reaction noises will help to give the character a bit of life. The sounds I’ll be adding will be comical in nature to match the tone of the animation and provide an additional layer of interest to the animation.

I haven’t yet decided on a musical track. I will add one if I come across the right track but won’t force one in if I’m not happy with it. If I were to add music it’d be upbeat and not too strong. Something classical or calm would allow the visual storytelling to be the main focus.

Creating a Business Card

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As part of the digital graduate show and general professional practice I am in need of a new business card. My previous business cards have been nothing special but I’ve never needed them for actual business purposes, they were mostly a simple way to give someone the link to my YouTube channel.

For reference this is the business card design I created in 1st year Dynamic Communication. In my first year of university I was overwhelmed with new ways of thinking and new skills to learn. As such, the designs I created were nothing special. For this module I also created a logo which I still use today. The logo is still okay but I feel it may need a revision in the near future.

I never actually printed these designs out to use so the last business card I actually had in hand was designed back in Secondary School and was pretty basic. Below is a scan of it since there was never a digital file it existed in.

Although for the Digital Graduate Show, I want my business card to represent me and the work I create on a whole, hence using my “blobstudios” branding quite heavily. Through thinking about my new website design, I want each thing to match well with the other. I primarily use a dark grey or black, reds and whites throughout my brand so I wanted to continue that here. I had an idea about using a Lego style stud grid as a background.

The most important information I have to include is my name, website and email. My YouTube link is also pretty important and I may also want to include my phone number and Twitter handle (which is one of the easiest ways to get in contact with me, its one of the few social networks other than YouTube which I actively post on). I also considered my LinkedIn page but that may overload the card with information. If anyone desperately wants my LinkedIn it’ll be linked on my website.

This is the first draft that I’ve created based on my doodles. I really like the colours used and I think a darker background is a nice change from the white backgrounds I’ve used before. My intention was to use the stud grid background on the back of the card and I wasn’t entirely sure what to have on the front. Having the background on both ties the two sides together. I initially had the background with greater contrast but it didn’t look too great when text was put in front.

The card designs here include a trim area so the design will be cropped on all sides when it is printed.

I think the back of the card is passable on its own however I will want to try out different layouts on the front of the card to make better use of the space. There are other things I will want to consider such as somehow including a few examples of my work or including icons beside the contact details.

To fill in the blank spaces of the card I tried adding in examples of my work in a brick layout which resembles the logo. I also tried out adding different icons.

This is the same design except with a thicker border around the bricks, and I made it white just to see how that looks and also darkened the background to make the text more readable.

And here is another design where I’ve swapped the text and the bricks. I reverted back to the red bricks but included the thicker border. I’ve kept the darker background and have added in the faintest of drop shadows to the text to help with readability. I’ve also swapped out the top image for an easier to read image and colour corrected to make them easier to see.

I showed these designs to Lynn today and she seemed happy with the overall design. She brought attention to the images which may be too small to read easily and suggested printing out a paper prototype to get a sense of the scale. She also suggested maybe cutting down to two images or even one larger image with multiple variants showing off different projects.

I created a new design which features two bricks but one larger image. There are also multiple image variants. I reverted back to the white borders since it reads easier and tried to keep my horizontal and vertical lines aligned.

I also printed this design out and despite the printer running out of ink, I’m happy with how it looks. I will be sending these to print very soon.

Exposition Research

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As the Abertay Digital Graduate Show is coming up, I want to consider the way I will present my work in further detail. We were recently given access to the computer interface software, a Flash based frame that allows members of the public to easily access work.

I’ve got to consider what work I will be displaying both digitally and physically. On the digital interface I’ll of course have my final animated outcome. I will also want to include some of the timelapses I’ve created as they are often interesting to the public who will then understand how stop motion is produced. When working with stop motion you only build what the camera sees as over building is a waste of time as it won’t be seen. Many stop motion behind the scenes like to show what the audience doesn’t see as it allows them to see that behind the magic there is a lot of work going on.

I’ve had a look at how stop motion animations are displayed in various exhibitions. There’s a common tendency to show off some of the practical assets that were used in the animations such as characters, props and parts of sets. They also like to show cross sections of the camera showing off the armature beneath or the multiple faces or armatures required to pull of a shot. I think people like to see behind the scenes stuff. Speaking from experience its fascinating to see how things are made and look off-camera, that will be the focal point of my own display.

I don’t have a particularly complex set so I may or may not choose to display that at the Graduate Show. I am debating on including parts of my set but it’d require to be cut in order to fit the plinth. Alternatively I can just remove the props from it and set those up. The set in my opinion looks better on camera than off camera.

The characters on the other hand will definitely be on show. With the plinth I’ve requested I’ll be able to display a few characters. I will definitely include the wire armature and depending on the outcome of the animation I may choose to display him with clay moulded onto him. I want to show off a few different characters from throughout the year so I’ll likely also include the Rover from the Rover Exploration animation, and a clay monster either from the Global Game Jam project or Poking a Clay Monster animation. The way I display these characters and their poses will depend on the physical space I have available, I will work out the best arrangement during the setup time. Printed name tags to contextualise what they were used for will also be appropriate.

Unlike some other art projects, I feel like I can only research so much when it comes to the display of my work. A bulk of it is digital content so a lot of interaction will be through the computer or my tablet. I feel the tablet is important as its more approachable, people can hold it in their hands and quickly pass it along if the main PC is currently in use. What I can mainly focus on is drawing people in to my booth so the physical artifacts I have on display and my poster design will be the main designed aspect of my exposition.

Progress Update – It’s Clay Time

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Production on the final animation is full steam ahead. The wire armature character in my story has now found himself in a pile of modelling clay. This scene and those ahead deal with the character exploring the material properties of the clay.

Compared to the last few animation sessions, I was able to animate quicker due to the less challenging armature animation. However that doesn’t necessarily mean the animation quality was less. The animation I’ve achieved in the past couple of days have been more character than action based. The character is given an opportunity post-tumble to explore what he has fallen in to and what is possible with the clay.

I decided to add in an additional actions (that weren’t in the storyboards/animatic) where the character has clay on their face upon sitting up. A quick visual gag but something that also brings the character’s attention to how the clay stuck to something. He then picks up a new piece and lets it drop. Adding in these actions just helped to slow the narrative pace down and let the audience process what’s happening easier. It also enhances the character’s personality and allows you to understand what the character is thinking.

The character attaching clay to his arm went as planned however the animation was able to show what the animatic only did to a certain extent and that was the flexing pose with the character seemingly proud of his new arm piece. I’ve had fun animating the clay drop on these three occasions giving it a fluid but still “chunky” feeling to it. Having it still be firm to a degree will help later on when the character gets stuck in the legs he’ll build himself.

On the blog side of things I’ve also re-uploaded some videos hosted on this blog to YouTube as Blogger was reducing the quality in addition to not displaying thumbnails or resolution correctly. Previously uploaded videos will be swapped out for the higher quality versions within the next couple of days.

Animation Discussion – Pied Piper (1986)

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This was an animation a friend recommended me to check out. It’s an excerpt from The Pied Piper (1986) which was directed by Jiří Barta, a Czech stop motion animator. While he is an animator himself, IMDb credits four others as the animators so I am not sure who in particular animated this clip.

When first watching this clip I was immediately drawn in. There’s so much charm to the character design, the overall visual design and the stop motion itself. The characters have a limited movement especially while they walk, it reminds me of the vampires from The Nightmare Before Christmas. However the characters are very expressive, they have more movement in their arms and head movements coupled together with the visual storytelling so that we know what’s going on.

Although the characters are not speaking English there are visual representations of what they are talking about, such as the coins coming from the mouth and the scales representing the haggling nature of the conversation.
There is a lot of good camera movement going on to allow for some neat gags. Switching focus from one character to another allows for heads to be switched out such as the angry heads. The angry heads had a different texture and colour in contrast to the rest of the animation which emphasised a creepy feel and helped to contrast it to the calm scene it once was.

One thing I particularly loved was the use of perspective. Very early on in this clip as a character walks by, she walks past a street opening showing the road as it goes off into the distance. Only, the set isn’t that big, it looks like its physically only a short distance away and is perpendicular to the ground. I’ve seen this kind of thing done before for stylistic purposes or just to conserve space, I’ve even done similar things myself with stop motion perspective. What I love about this though is that there’s small characters in the background and they’re animated. Although we know there’s an illusion going on, the focus of the camera and scale of the characters tell us they should be in the distance. We know they aren’t but in the context of the animation’s style it works and its charming to see the little characters move.

This excerpt ends with a rat appearing and stealing a piece of food. The people in the marketplace seemingly forget their differences and beat the rat to death. I’m not sure but it looks like a real stuffed rat was used. The addition of the blood and the fact the people were beating it to death seems to have been used for shock factor, perhaps as some metaphor for the greed of capitalist shopping or something, I don’t know. All I know is I enjoyed the clip and will seek out the full film to watch in the future.