Tuesday, 30 October 2012

A coversation with Simon Eltz

Having previously posted (available here) about the music video for the song Superfan Unknown by Goodrun. It was created by Simon Eltz and I had asked some brief questions regarding the piece. Here is the resulting conversation...

Firstly, What was the inspiration behind the piece?

The name of the song is "superfan unknown". So I thought I can show a variety of charakters, anyone could be a "superfan" of the band. This worked nicely together with an Idea I had of those Childrenbooks, where you can mix Bodyparts together and make funny characters. I wanted to try something similar but with moving characters. Those were the main Ideas I had in the beginning. Then came also some economic thoughts, the good reusability of the walkcycles, how to fill the minutes in an interesting way, but with not too much effort behind.

Was the concept of the video your sole creation or did you have input from the band?

I developed the whole concept and asked from time to time the band if its ok.

The characters move to the same beat, except where there are scenes with multiple characters (where there has been a slight offset). Was this a conscious decision?

Yes, I didn't want them to be too much like Robots, to give it a more natural look.

There is no linear narrative structure in the work, what was the decision behind this?

I like music videos as a field for experimenting, where you can leave some rules behind you. Well, this video is not very experimental, but I was working with visual Ideas (including Ideas about different characters etc..), and not with narrative thoughts. I tried to develop something that is fun or interesting to watch, that could catch the interest for this short amount of time. 

Could you tell me more about the character who hit's his stomach?

There is the hand of the Illustrator that draws all the characters, but he hasn't everything under controll and doesnt always achieve what he wants. Also I was searching for different ways of interacting with the Hand, I wanted to do alway something slightly different. So I had the Idea of complete changing the style of the drawing, after three unsucsessfull attempts of the illustrator to make a motivated young female superfan. I wanted to make a complete different style of character, children's drawing like, with a silly attitude. But.. also a real superfan of the Band. Well the belly hitting is just another visual Idea. In german you can say "timbal" (if its the right word in english) for a huge belly, so he just hits the rhythm on his timbal.. look at the attached image to see which instrument I mean :) By the way, hitting the "timbal"- is some kind of german expression, leo.org translates it with "to paint the town red"

Final Thoughts

I am in the process of completing a rationale for the relationship between audio and narrative that is due to be published on this blog at some point this week. It highlights 3 different stages that can be applied to the synchronisation process. This concept of the video is music led (the third stage) and this is an obvious statement to be making because of the nature of product. The idea that this area can be used as an experimental playing field is not a new one - this was central to the philosophy of the silly symphonies (see Animation Aesthetics by Maureen Furniss). This area can also be used in terms of practical practice and for expressing non-linear narrative structures. 

Although there is a lack of linear narrative the piece is broken down through a series of alternative actions that conceive the creation of different characters. This is needed because for 3 minutes of continuous walking would see the audience switch off, and this action forms the narrative structure that is guided by the music. Simon talks about wanting keeping a natural look and avoiding mechanical movement, and for this to work there has to be a reserved use for how much influence the music has over the actions - in other words by avoiding Micky Mousing! 

I'd like to say thanks for Simon Eltz for taking the time to answer the questions and for having patients through the language barrier. 

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Group Tutorial: Things I don't like

On Thursday we had to present things we either liked or disliked. I came prepared with two things i didn't like, they were quite specific compared to others, so here they are with a rationale...

In the Corpse Bride intro, as the hand writes there is absolutely no weight or pressure being applied to any of the movements. No pressure or muscle movement from within the hand itself makes it look dead, and causes one to question what is the driving force? The elbow appears to be the top of the chain. The wrist only articulates any movement when easing in and out to the page. On has to assume that as a stop motion that they did not 'animate' the whole of the physiology. 

Animating the whole physiology, even when not in shot, is important. All movements force is driven primarily from the trunk and without consideration can cause performances to look off. This can be seen below in my Viva Voca posted below, and was also established in a workshop i attended last year about Laban movement theory held by Elisza Ribeiro.
However, having never worked with stop-motion i'm not fully aware of the technical capabilities. Although, i am aware to produce a model with such flexible hand movement could have adverse affects regarding control. This would surely make it far-less cost effective, and is the most probable cause. This brings me to the aesthetic of the work. Compare it to Nightmare Before Christmas, it appears CG, whereas NBC is clearly stop-motion. However innovative NBC was, we can feel the textures, this sets context. The Corpse Bride however, at the benefit of technological capability, has an ambiguous context. This ambiguousness causes the conflict in shots such as the writing hand in my opinion (because in CG it is entirely possible to general such movement). 

Further on in the scene, the towns folk all follow the beat of the music, which is accompanied by a tick. This breaks the rules for creating performance but is acceptable as its function is to set the context - a boring, monotonous and repetitive life that the protagonist (not bound by such conditions) needs to escape. We did highlight however the larger characters lacked weight in their walks. 

This was not however the worst example i could find. Roll on DFS, and their Arthur Christmas endorsed ad.

There are many fundamentals wrong with this characters performance it's difficult to decide where to start. Firstly, in gestural terms, his trunk and legs are not synchronised with the hands and head. In animated performance, it is never advisable to separate a bodies movement into two actions that do not influence each other. A coherent performance will be difficult to produce for 8 seconds of animation, due to lack of thinking time, but it clearly does not work having both separate parts running constantly, with no structural narrative purpose. The second aspect that doesn't work is the expressions. They neither have storytelling purpose nor any emotional value. The character is dead behind the eyes. A reason for this might be a poor designed character that was suitable for the limited emotional value they provided for the original feature film. (One thinks to Studio AKAs lead in Lost and Found, but they had more time for better timing and spacing, and relied on gesture over expression, and aided by an narrater. Remember the design principle, Form follows Function?)

I can hear you say well the dialogue doesn't offer much so how do we convey an engaging performance with a limited character?

This can be difficult, but the answer is simple: planning.

They had not established 2 things: Storytelling poses and the major/minor emphasis points. What it appears they did do was produce a walk cycle that would composite with the length of the distance to the door in 8 seconds and bake gestures on top. I have no conclusive evidence of this, but based on experience this is my prediction. [I am in the process of finding out who produced the ad to find this information out, i have contacted VTR North and Ink Films who worked together to produce the 2011 ads]

This draws me back to my comments regarding Corspe Bride above. All movement starts from the trunk. We have two performances in the DFS advert between the physiology causing a conflict. The problem essentially starts where they have used the walk cycle as the storytelling pose - this is okay - but it doesn't deviate. It's mechanical. The upper body doesn't move on the major emphasis points. This is a must to work with the excited tone in the voice, and ad purpose to the dialogue.

Major emphasis points = whole body
Minor emphasis points = arms + head

The storytelling poses tend to be most appropriate for Major emphasis points - a significant moment. The minor emphasis points are ideal for the transitional period.

This brings us back to the face. It makes it difficult to comment again because i have not seen the rig set up. In the discussion we agreed that the poor emotional expressions could be down to a poor rig. To really find out the answer we would need to find out if they used a character that was produced for the film. In the clip below, watch from about 1.15 in, the performance provided here shows what can be achieved if a rig from the film was used. This also raises the question of if it is from the film, what was its role in the film? was it a primary/secondary or background character? 

Once i have a response from my initial enquiry i shall be asking these questions (if applicable). The above clip is important because it expresses storytelling significance, and uses major and minor emphasis points as well as using expression. The character appears to be thinking, something that is clearly missing from the DFS advertisement. 

Check out the link below for more examples of how the character (if from the film and fully rigged) can move in terms of physiology. This is surely evidence enough to place blame at a poorly planned scene. 

When i have a response i shall update on another post.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Journeys & Destination Response

For the presentation i said -

"I obtained images from each individual and mixed them together to form a collective narrative based on experience. I then composed them on an abstract journey to create a unique metaphorical representation of non-collective experiences creating new ones together".

I have added emphasis on the last word as i will be returning to this point later. Firstly, Frank Abbott's comments stripped down said our presentation lacked cohesiveness and it felt like 3 or 4 presentations instead of one, and although i agree, i'd like to make the case that all of our personalities were evident, and while it may of not been as glossed over and as for the audience as other groups, i maintain that we were able to not only share each of our own insight with each other, we were able to present it with everyone. Where they asked for more of the video i presented at the end, it was actually a suitable metaphor for the way we had interpreted the brief. 

Our group presentation contained a rap/dance, slide shows and a video (in that order). We settled on the theme of difference. The first to show was Rita, who had decided to present a performance based on her initial experience of western/Nottingham culture. By writing her own words to a Fergie song (i'd never heard before) certainly was a loud - but entertaining - start to our presentation. The rest of the group then presented via the traditional presentation format - pictures on a slide show and spoken word. A little dull in my opinion, but being respectful (and not fully grasping what i was trying to achieve with my initial idea that i carried on as a summation aspect) I accepted that this was how they wanted to express themselves - on a creative course i'd expected they'd attempt to be more adventurous. The themes ranged from Art, Design, Architecture and Fashion, and comparing western and chinese versions. Que the video i had made.

The early enthusiasm i had for this metaphorical representation was not passed on to the group. It may of been due to a language barrier, it may of been too abstract (i later found that they get taught lots of technicality but little creativity in their homeland), or it may be that they just didn't like the idea. Realising no differences can be obtained from a place i had spent three years living, i pushed on with the kaleidoscope idea, and i wish to state now that i didn't stick with it through arrogance. I was inspired by Edmund Whites idea of the Flaneur, a book i had read over the summer. Definition here. The concept is to travel on a journey with no end goal, but to explore aimlessly absorbing through the senses everything around. I felt that reflected the situation we were all in. And although we had a goal (in that of a presentation), i did not see it in that regard, i felt it was more of an outcome than a goal. You could argue the last statement supports Frank Abbott's comments - which would explain why the presentation was not cohesive.  


We were a pool of our collected non-shared experiences. We shared a journey in which we each had our own previous experience to reference from. In this, our cognitive processes filtered the information through our personalities. We had Rita, very animated and expressive, Edison, Benice and the others were quiet calm and relfective, and myself, searching for a deeper meaning. The poor structured and un-glossed presentation will certainly be remembered a lot more for those reasons than i wish. I will repeat the last three words of my explanation of the work, new ones together. 

Think about that for a second. Let me ask you, what do you think that means in the context of the presentation? (Not the video alone) 

Frank was looking for a new ONE together. To unify to one single goal and singular outcome. 

We had created new ONES together. We unified at a single moment for multiple outcomes.

Which would you say the video represents more? 

It has to be the latter. It's neither static nor definitive. Much like our journeys. This changes the form of the presentation into a subjective manner. On the journeys of our careers the moment will be as significant as any other in the narrative of our lives. We have all been drawn to the specific point in time due to circumstance, we will manifest this outcome and spread back out into new circumstances. Thats all i have to say about it, for now! You never know what might come back of it in the future. In the mean time, i'll leave you with this, i hope you can see why its relevant.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

(Narrative) Structural Design

The following narrative structures have been taken from the book Art in Motion: Animation Aesthetics by Maureen Furniss. Although they imply storytelling forms, they will play a role by informing the evaluation of other works when establishing the role of sound and sonicity. 

Linear Narrative Structures

1. Beginning, Middle and End - Enjoyable because they conform to the ideology of work ethic: moving forward, achieving goals and making progress.

2. Interactive Narrative - (Such as animated games) - Rather than one linear narrative, the participant is offered many.

Non-Linear Narrative Structures

"An artist can utilise an alternate structure for the purposes of disturbing a viewers sense of equilibrium"

3. Cyclical - ...does not reach a conclusion but rather comes back to it's beginning. Such as myths, natural occurrences, life and death and the changing of the season.

4. Episodic - The most common place...is in weekly television series...[they] involve recurring characters and settings, with out without the addition of an on going narrative. 

5. Thematic - ...Creates an experience that can be quite different than that of a linear or cyclical production. Rather than moving forward, or even in a repeated pattern, thematic works tend towards stasis. In that respect, they can be described as meditative or poetic in nature, exploring an experience, emotion or other abstract concept in depth.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Where will my masters sit within my subject?

With my masters degree set to start next week after this last weeks introductory period, i'm taking the time now to establish with the audience of this blog where my research has previously been and where it is going. 

To start, please watch my final presentation from my BA. Although almost 20 minutes in duration, it is a complete summation of the project, meaning it moves through the experiments and the findings, and the overall narrative arc quite quickly. 

During the initial introductory lecture, Frank Abbot asked us to think about where our MA research will sit in context to our subject. He said it should be on the periphery of our subject as opposed to being central. In other words, having been central to our subjects during our BAs, we should be seeking to enter new, less established ground. The below graph visually represents where i intend my research to sit in relation to my subject.

Sitting between animation and character performance, my research concerns itself with the relationship between Timing & Spacing and sound. 

MA Introductory Project; Self Managed Research into the City of Nottingham

The first project of my MA was to write a report on a cultural experience i had gained whilst out with colleagues from other MA subjects. This is the subsequent report.

Journeys & Destinations:
Self Managed Research into the City of Nottingham

After meeting my group (Group 12) of colleagues for the first time on Wednesday 3rd October, I was excited to be exploring the city in which I had spent 3 years of my life living in again amongst a group that have only recently arrived here. Having just moved back home to Birmingham following the completion of my bachelors’ degree in Nottingham my own sense of ‘home’ had become distorted again. I had never moved back home over any of the summers, so Nottingham really did, only briefly, become home. As I am now commuting to and from Nottingham the distorted nature familiarity is attacking me on both fronts.
My group consisted of people who have come from the Far East though many are well travelled and have been to various countries within Europe. This presented us with both mutual ground to relate. All of us had been detached from our comfort of our homes, albeit a further distance than I had myself.
We settled on meeting at the Photographer’s Hub. This was pleasing as I had never been before, meaning we would all be sharing a new experience together. Whilst waiting for others to arrive, I noticed that the street directly opposite the entrance was called East Street. I felt it was very fitting and quite a coincidence and added to the narrative of the moment, although my colleagues didn’t quite grasp what I meant, well at least to my face they didn’t. Once all the members of group 12 arrived we went on up to the Photographer’s Hub. No one answered the buzzer so we could get through the security door. Thankfully a lady from another unit within the building let us through. Unfortunately the Photographer’s Hub was shut. Now usually in this situation I would of left, but my colleagues didn’t give up as readily as I did and continued to look around and poke their noses into other studios. Which was interesting as we got to see other creative’s at work.
Following this we walked through Lace Market to the Nottingham Contemporary in the hope that they were not in a change over period between exhibitions. So you can imagine our disappointment when they were. After a quick look around the shop and parts of the show being put up, we moved onto the current shop of Paul Smith.
In my three years living in Nottingham I had never been in there.  Now my colleagues had changed from their inquisitive enthusiasm in the previous locations to delight. It was an intrinsic response. What surprised me was as a native I felt less about the brand that’s thought of so highly here than the people from thousands of miles away. In the store I felt very intimidated by its presentation and price however aesthetically appealing the clothes were. This is not to say I have anymore right to enjoy the brand more than my colleagues or to say that I am an inverted snob. It just didn’t appeal to me in the same way as my international friends; this could easily be explained by the fact they are all taking a fashion or fashion related master degrees. This experience caused me to realise culture is not contained or defined by international boarders or language barriers.
Near the start I drew on the fact we had coincidently started opposite East Street. I drew on that comparison, as I was aware of my colleagues in my presence, in what I felt was my context. I’m sure they, though in my presence, did not see the point of the comparison. They were seeing me in the same context that they were seeing themselves. Frank Abbott said something in his opening lecture that I now understand that context to be. It is something that I never really accepted before, and something that will change - on huge proportions - the way I shape my future.

‘You are now an international student.’