Friday, 21 December 2012

Stray short

Stray short film from iAnimate on Vimeo.

Nice little short. I think the timing of the end is wrong, i think the audience should of found out about the dog after the character and not before. However, the reason for posting this is because he shrugs twice, and this has been a piece of trivia within my own practice. At 2.17 he does a very subtle one that is also masked with a sighing subtext, and then again at 4.04. This latter action is more significant because it shows the thought process (Confusion!) followed by a choice. 

From 2.27 the walk he does is almost identical to what i was trying to achieve in that he walks and goes down to knee level to take a closer look. However, his use of rhythm in easing into the object is evident where as mine isn't, and it is this slowing down in rhythm that i want to achieve. From the steps to the floor there is 4 steps in about a second, and from the bottom of the steps there is 7 steps in about 5 seconds which ease out. Something i am going to have to consider in amending my next artefact.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Artefact 06 & 07

Artefact06 from Adam Weaver on Vimeo.

Artefact 07 from Adam Weaver on Vimeo.

Artefact 06 was another test using the animal characteristic method which is a result from the feedback from artefact 04 and the reference material. They feedback was that they wanted it to be slower. Artefact 07 was focused specifically on gesture and not trying to create a personality. It's purpose was to create the sense of being stuck through a singular action (which has been cycled). This worked well and although this isn't directly linked to performance in character terms, it applies itself to the rhythmic and narrative corners of the project.

The revised pieces (Artefact 05) still had issues which may be addressed if time permits but as they are smaller elements of a piece i want to produce for the PGC stage, they could also be addressed directly within the piece. The feedback was that the red ball that shrugs should remove the 't-shirt' (ball of the each shoulder) and focus on performance rather than shape. This asks an interesting question about at what point does an object stop being one and start to become another, and it seems to be that features that are not present in the primary form should either be their permanently or avoided full stop. 

My next step basically involves me drawing back all the information i have researched and experimented with in this initial stage and synthesis this into a piece of animation expressing confusion through performance, which will have a strong rhythm influence which will express character through abstract and non-abstract elements, whilst providing linear and cyclical narrative forms. This is quite a large experiment, but i hope to uncover the limitations of working relationships with all of these elements, and to see if both external and internal ideas can work together to improve storytelling.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Artefact 05 - Changes

Here are the changes to artefacts 3 & 4 as mentioned yesterday.

Duck Reference

For the next animal i am going to try and communicate a Duck through a sphere. I have found these references:

Real ducks moving step by step. Take note of the subtle weight drop on the down which allows the rear to twist left and right with more emphasis.

Donald Duck also does this movement when he moves, this is most notable through the presence of the tail. Notice at the beginning when he is moving left to right between the signs, his feet rotate around the ball of the rear as if he was in water, they moving like mechanical rudders. I'm not quite sure if this can be interpreted into a single sphere but i will give it a go. 

Please see from 4.21 for about 5 seconds! I know, not much, but look how the ducks move. There is a real emphasis on the squash a stretch (only mute, but in comparison) which is more probable for how it will be best to conceive this gesture. 

Thursday, 13 December 2012


For the third artefact the response was that the shrug felt too extreme - the same issue from my first artefact - so i am going to re-do that element of the animation. In the back of my mind i was cautious about ruining the flow of the rubberhose animation.

The fourth artefact they felt wasn't organic enough in the blow-up pose. They also mentioned that the noise wouldn't happen on the jump and would be more suited to the inflating motion. The green shading and audio also influence the audience, so to purely focus on the gesture these should perhaps be void for the purposes of the experiment. I will also make these changes. They also asked if i had used any reference material for the frog, which i struggled to find decent footage (though i did find a slow motion jump taking off, it didn't have the land which was i felt necessary). I imagine it like exploding pop-corn, which i also had difficulty finding decent reference material. With my next experiments i will be sure to apply this feedback.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Artefact 04

So heres a little text of the ball as a Frog/toad. I've used a ribbit sound clip to inspire the gesture. Although this doesn't directly represent confusion, my hope is that it will feed into it later, in some form of abstract representation. Going to see if i can push out one of a dog tonight. If i manage it, the results shall be posted.

"Confusion" ("Путаница")

From the description: 

'Based on the children's story by the famous Russian writer Korney Chukovsky. A bunny tries to orchestrate a choir of animals who grow tired of their own sounds and try out new ones instead - birds ribbit, pigs quack, and so on. The confusion (путаница) grows as frogs take to flying and some wily foxes light a pond on fire.

Directed by Irina Gurvich for Kievnauchfilm studio in 1982'

Although the story is a bit weak in its conclusion, i like the way the visual and audio elements change meaning to imply and produce confusion. The use of audio pushes this, and i wonder if this could of been better if the animals also change dynamics so the pigs sat like frogs and the frogs like pigs etc... a bit difficult for the walks when they're all anthropomorphic. 

This idea of animal sounds as a guide for movement might be my next step in experiments; i really want to play with the frog croak. 

Artefact 03 Reduction

I created the third artefact using my findings from the first two artefacts. I have applied:

  • change in tempo to performance 
  • utilised the concept of a beat so it is more apparent through gesture (visual over audio)
  • applied a similar performance to a reduced form
  • used both linear and cyclical narrative forms


Another short from the french school Supinfocom. The phallic aside, i think this is a decent short. As i've been working like a trooper on another piece ready for tomorrows feedback session and focussing on internal monologue since my first artefact, i think this piece typifies what is really meant by the expression. There is a real aura of subtly in the movements [in this short] that was clearly lacking in my first artefact. The slight micro-movements aid the the tone and create thinking time. The jail scene is a prime example of this. Thinking back to the hand gesture that was causing so much conflict in my work, in comparison to this it is easy to see why - and just like the feedback identified, too much information was being given to the audience. It is important to note that the comparison is part of a full production; the use of location and audio aided the internal monologue - it reminds me of Equilibrium [see video below] when he's exploring the objects of the past and feel inner emotion. So in rationlising back to that first artefact, perhaps i was thinking to hard about the story and confused the inner emotion and the outer action. 

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Tango and Kryielle

I spotted Tango on Cartoon Brew yesterday. Following the discussion with my supervisors last Thursday, and my subconscious attachment to rhythm that influences my practice (to a level even i was unaware), this was a pleasant discovery and well timed. It contains the two fundamental narrative forms i am stimulated by - Linear (Beginning, Middle, End) and Cyclical (see here for post on narrative structure). The evolution of age and narrative through action interwinds poetically - it is well planned, staged and timed. At it's peak with so much action it can be quite intimidating and mentally strenuous. The choice to have each cycle ease in and out allows the tension to be built with the audience before allowing them back to a calm state. 

This last point brings me to a piece of work we viewed in the feedback session called Kyrielle. It follows the same two narrative approaches as Tango, although it has a slightly more abstract elements. This, unlike Tango, has a far more unnerving development. Because these abstract elements are conceived through the action of metamorphosis, and the quantity of subjects is much greater (and so is the sound) i feel it creates a sense of confusion and unease. That could answer one potential question raised during the discussion; can rhythm show confusion?

Monday, 10 December 2012

Artefact 02

Here is my second Artefact. As discussed before the aim of this was to create a more internal performance. In the video you can see the process of development. Whilst filming myself i was listening to Bon Iver which helped myself engage with the mood i was trying to replicate. Looking at the previous post, the image there visually explains the difference between the first two artefacts.

After the offset stage i did another pass which i labelled secondary action. This was a result of the performance being too internal. Without the use of facial expression, the hands become an important tool in communicating ideas and thoughts. Prior to their inclusion i felt not enough was being communicated to the audience, unlike the first artefact in which their was too much.

Before the feedback session with my peers and supervisor, i would like to draw some early conclusions that may or may not change later. Firstly, the pacing - large gestures describe confidence; Small gestures describe  reservation. Secondly, just how much did my own physical space influence the outcome? The locations differed in size, and the distance between the camera and myself did. This relationship being a foundation principle in cinematography (Mid-shot, Close-up etc). In applying this to internal monologue issue that stands between these artefacts, was the reference footage and staging the underlying influence on the gestural spacing? 

With the finger being an issue raised in the first artefact as being too distracting, it might be worth while to produce another pass including the finger action. My supervisor couldn't tell if it was causing over-action and we were all ultimately indecisive. Now im using the goon rig* with better proportioned topology it should be a step in the direction of answering that question. Thats it for now, following the feedback session on thursday we'll pick this back up.

*I've place a basic sphere over the original head of the goon rig. Rather than remodel the face (which will wipe the blend spapes and make it inoperable anyway) it will allow me to reveal the face and thus animated expression onto the gesture at a later date.

Friday, 7 December 2012

What not to do...

Just been flicking through the book 'Ideas for the Animated Short - Finding and Building Stories' and come across this:

Funny that the day after the session with my supervisors i should come across this. What i shouldn't do i did! Anyway, im going to film myself again but this time with the focus of internal monologue and with a much reserved tone, focusing on how i feel inside rather than outside. We'll see how this goes!

Thursday, 6 December 2012

MA Artefact 01

So here is the second pass at the scene i have been working from. As an artefact, this has been built up using the pipeline that is taught at animation mentor. The idea of this first artefact was use reference footage to improve timing and spacing of my animation. The feedback was that the resulting action spaced out effectively but was very pantomime in the gestures. There is quite a bit of over-action and not enough refinement or internal monologue coming from the character. Looking back over the other elements of the artefact highlighted issues with the character design and the reference material. The design of the character did not take into consideration both the aesthetic and movement required. This will no doubt be a result of the character being designed without a specific goal and prior to the narrative I had conceived. There were several issues i had during the generation of the two passes, mainly caused by the size of the hands. The pointing finger dominated much of the scene, which I think is why there is such feeling of over action, which isn't aided by the slight walks in each direction; the latter is a result of the reference footage shot. The footsteps timing was used as the foundation for the performances pacing. A positive offset of this was that the weighting felt much stronger than i have previously done. What was interesting was driving all of this was my own internal monologue; from character design and reference footage of myself.

The other issue i came across was the characters break for the thought process. I noticed while animating that it was far too quick but thought I’d run with it as it kept with the rhythm of the piece. This was noticed by my supervisors, which prompted a discussion regarding my interests. In truth i was waiting for the issue (of the thinking time) to be raised. At the time i knew it was wrong, but my own stimulation from watching it flow overrode (and it represents a good limitation of live-action reference). However, as discussed at the very start of the project that sounds influence on timing and spacing was my primary interest, and after revising it towards my longer-term aspirations, that of character performance, we established that it could actually could be the primary focus of the research, and the others - performance, timing and confusion as secondary purposes that ultimately feed the project. I feel it is good to have made this distinction because it helps build the context and direction towards what I am trying to achieve.

The narrative of the piece was a play on the virtual puppet being given constant (Rhythmic) instructions. Upon meeting the crossroads (A Glitch in the system) he suddenly has to think for himself, which creates the confusion. One question asked was, is the performance right for the story? By this, was the consistent rhythm right? To pull this back to the internal monologue, surely the reaction would be more reserved and frozen up upon reaching the glitch, which is true, I feel it would have been better in that regard also. To conclude, this artefact shows why reference material should be suitable for the narrative. It also signifies the importance of designing and producing a character fit for purpose. It has also highlighted that on some subconscious level I am stimulated and engaged through rhythm through other purposes than just storytelling in a large studio process.

Next step: I am going to produce some really short pieces of a character showing confusion. To increase productivity and to start thinking about how rhythm can be expressed with narrative.

7 Acting Principle - Ed Hooks

Ed Hooks lists seven acting principles in Acting for Animators, which he describes as essential. They are:
1) Thinking tends to lead to conclusions, and emotion tends to lead to action.
2) We humans empathize only with emotion
3) Theatrical reality is not the same as regular reality
4) Acting is doing; acting is also reacting
5) Your character should play an action until something happens to make him play a different action
6) Scenes begin in the middle not the beginning
7) A scene is negotiation

In order to break down their context and relationship to the animator i am going to list where i feel they sit in the storytelling process of studio animation, and where they fit into that process.
1 & 2 are essential to performance and are subservient to the action of the narrative.
3 i feel is significant to the writing stage (but is still vital for the animator to understand)
4 i feel sits between 3 and 1 & 2 and is important for negotiating the action.
5 again sits just after the writing stage but also important to the establishing the chronology of the action
6 Scenes begin in the middle not the beginning. This is certainly true for live action. (In pantomime we always see the decision to leave home but never the actual leaving, we then join them mid journey for example). However, for animation we can extend this into performance.
7 this, as stated by Hooks, is suited to the scriptwriting stage.
Relationship Graph

This graph is my interpretation and breakdown of Hooks first principle. Thinking is thoughts and decisions that lead to conclusions ('I am going to do this'). Emotion (Automatic value response) is feeling and leads to action ('How i am going to do this'). It is a combination of the two that generates performance.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Wall-E and Emotion

Wall-e and Eves love story has quite the emotional arc we are so accustomed to from Pixar films. What i am going to talk about is the scene at the end, where Wall-e has been damaged and is removed from emotive performance and becomes his physiology - a robot. 

Eve starts as the robot looking for life forms to bring humans back to earth. Wall-e falls in love with her and cares for her during an unfortunate event (I am cutting a huge chunk of the story out here, because if your reading this, or this blog and you have not seen it yet, im very concerned!) anyway, eve realises that wall-e cared for her and falls for him. While back in space, Wall-e gets damaged and eve returns them both to earth to repair him. Once back at Wall-e's storage unit Eve applies a new circuit board etc. The result is that Wall-e goes into what i describe as auto-pilot mode. He is un-aware of who eve is, what they've been through and their connection. They are eventually re-united and there love resolved in quite a charming way. 

So, how does this work? Wall-e's gesture and movement throughout the film is like that of a nervous turtle, constantly moving his arms and legs back in constantly. However he is a curious guy, and always move to things that attract his interest. (also note the character design - Wall-e is squared off at every opportunity to show brawn and eve is curved like that of a ladies hips). With this consistency in movement and action it allows a juxtaposition to be formed when his memory is removed. Once repaired, his eyes are static, his body movement rigid, his gestures are not cautious; they are systematic. His eyes do not subdue at their far sides and peer in - which he does a lot to eve throughout the film. Basically, he loses his emotion, we lose his empathy and in doing so we gain eves. This transition in very important. Eve trys on last time 'to bring him back' but giving up, she leans in, a spark transfers between them (it happened earlier in the film the first time they both 'connected') and she turns away softly, head down, as if she has lost all hope. As her hand drifts from his, his tense stopping her - his gestures are again un-rigid, it really is a nice storytelling moment.

The change in the gestures movement is what carries the narrative. By becoming completely rigid the audience physically see the change in him. His body language is no longer responsive to his relationships; he is cold and systematic. His eyes do not acknowledge Eve, there is no increased tension, this removes any communication of thought and emotion. However, we still accept he is real. At no point do the audience believe he isn't. This also allows us to empathize with eve. We feel her experience loss, the lower of the head, the shape of her eyes cutting in from the top corners. At that peak moment when she leans in, just before she turns away, her head almost touches his and the electricity transfers through and the result is that her love brings him out of his coma. 

After reading more of Ed Hooks he lists 7 acting principles (which im going to talk more about in a separate post) but this moment covers the first two he lists - 

1) Thinking tends to lead to conclusion and emotion tends to lead to action. 

2) We humans empathize only with emotion.

I've struggled to find a source online with the clip in. I have found that there are many 'FanVidz' online and are just awful. Please watch this video from 3.18 whilst on mute. You've been warned: your ears will suffer. 

Below is one example of a fan vid that has been animated externally as an afterthought. I'm posting the link as it has the same two characters break the two principles listed above and shows the difference between a skilled animator and a not so skilled one...

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Le Taxidermiste

I love this little short by Paulin Cointot, Dorianne Fibleuil, Antoine Robert & Maud Sertour. I love narrative concepts - life and death, ritual, preservation even down to the point where out of all the other species that have failed to beat it (and be stuffed) the fly, the insect, possibly to small to join in such practice, that is, to die and be preserved, fails. It really made me chuckle - not that im a sadist. I like the aesthetic, the illustrative textures create a lot of vibrancy in such a dead and static environment. The minimalist movement really helps the pacing of the story, it sets a calm atmosphere which really aid the expression of the ideas - counter balancing the chaotic visual style.