Friday, 14 November 2008

Evaluation

I've really enjoyed investigating and creating E Cards. It is an exciting modern medium that I believe is really going to take off - especially in America land, even though one cooperation owns the franchise. I believe Hallmark might have a difficult time against American Greeting.

The thing I really enjoyed about this project was the freedom and fun that creating E Cards brings. You can literally do anything you want because there will always be somebody out there with a similar sense of humour. When you go to the store and buy something you generally know what you want, you can even make a list: eggs, milk, bread...but when it comes to card shopping, you just go for a look and its one of the few things in life where you don't go looking for a specific thing. Sure you might look for a Birthday Card or an Anniversary Card, but you don't look for a "7th Year Anniversary Card with 'We love you, you make a great couple from Mum & Dad' "Card do you. And that is true with E Cards. You look under a category and browse and that is one of the great things about them - you find some fantastic surprises.

One thing I have really found that lets E Cards down is the lack of personalisation. You can add a written message to whoever you send it to, but would it be great if you could use some basic 'paint-esq' tools to create you own design on the envelope. I think that is where it will probably head in the future - I would love to let a 6 year old loose with some Electronic Paint and see what he makes for his mum....and then let his mum print it off at the other end and stick it to the fridge.

Interactivity is another key issue with E Cards. I found a great one which was a like a short mystery puzzle game and you had to figure it out to see the end of the card and get your greeting. That was fantastic! But I have seen the flip side and that is a boring card with not so much as 'Go' button that just plows through a brief animation that wishes you a Happy Birthday. Not like receiving a real card whatsoever and frankly...not as a good.

My cards have some interactivity but still not enough. My biggest regret is that I could get the script working with my card so that you could actually open the card your self by dragging the card with the mouse cursor . I think this would a be a really beneficial addition to E Cards as it would really make the user feel like he/she had received a REAL card - even though it was only electronic.

My other gripe with E Cards is that most of the websites you send them from don't send the card straight to you inbox - you get directed to a website with a your basic html message written underneath the embedded Flash file. I know why they don't send them directly to inboxes, but there are ways to lock .swf files so they can't be hacked - I have been blocked out of a few myself.

I was most pleased with my output during this project. I worked really hard, nearly every day and have to admit I have neglected the other side of my course temporarily. Perhaps for the first time I can say I worked a little too hard, if that is actually possible. I became rather obsessed with the idea of E Cards and really enjoyed making them. I am pleased with the short animations and that I have made and pleased with the level of interactivity that I have managed, but I have come to realise how much I don't like using Flash as an animation tool.

I have learned a lot more about animation since I made IGOR and it really felt like a step backwards to have to work with this tool again, so I will definitely not be using it for my next project. I love Flash as a tool - but it takes ten times more effort to animate well in it and you always end up taking the easy way out and relying on the computer to do half the work. Although, I understand I set myself a task trying to do three animations and I was forced to cut corners. I missed my own deadline by a week in the end, but I am pleased that I kept going and got the final E Card finished even when I began to grow tired and weary of working with the program.

Overall, I am reasonably happy with my final pieces and believe I have grafted hard to make a good body of work to support the E Cards I have made. This blog has been fun to write and a good way to track my progress, bother for my tutors and for myself. It has helped me keep things in sight, helping me to know how far I have come and how much work I have produced - thus keeping a good steady flow of work. It also create a demand through enjoyment for me to keep coming back and making more entries. I have met a new people through it, whose work is fun and well made and it has granted me access to the people I admire in the world of animation. I still think keeping a blog is one of the best ways to work. It shows how much time and effort you have put it. It shows off your work to the world (The toughest critics) and potential employers. And it keeps you interested in what you are doing by giving you a sense of purpose.

What more could you ask for really - it even does a spell check for you!

Finished!

Dingaling! Finished! Whoop!

After starting this blog in September I can now officially report I have just finished my last E Card.....animation. At the time of writing this I am just taking a healthy break before I make the envelope for it and animate and script the play back features. But I need a break and other than my evaluation this will be my last entry. I was hoping to have this project finished last week, last Friday to be exact - thus there has been a weeks delay, but I have knocked out another cartoon (Albeit not my finest piece of work) in that time so yey me! Later on today I will find myself in conversation with Al Jean of Simpson's writer fame amongst other things and he won't know my name, anything about this blog or even that I got up at 7 this morning to get this piece of crap finish.

I have officially got bored of Flash. I want my next project to be something I can show off. When people ask: "O you're an animator...where can I see your work" I want to be able to go: "Boom baby. Go here! Everybody friggin' loves me and my mad animation skills - fancy some drinks sometime?" Exactly like that. I don't like this animation. When I animate I am constantly finding ways to cut corners - I make Hanna Barbera look like amateur corner cutters.... - in this instance I didn't just cut the corner, I drove a bulldozer through the building on the corner and then some.

It's quite a lazy piece of work to say the least and in the end it looks a lot better than it did say, a couple of nights ago. I still don't like it and it really does look like a step backwards in my animation. That is why I am so eager to get it done so that I can start my next piece and just crack on with some REAL animation. Some FBF stuff, with at least every second frame being a new drawing. Applying all the new skills I am have learned into a competent and clever finished piece that I can show off to people and can send off to be entered into next years animation festivals to start making a name for myself.

Anyway. Here are some screenshots.

Who's this pesky critter lurking round the corner?

Sam the Sea Gull mother-licker!

Holey-Moley!

Scared....I would be too.



What I found was that I was watching a very bright and happy mugging - rather than the dirty gritty mugging (As muggings should be) that I had in my mind. Let me show you what I mean.

Original

New

These basic lighting effects really bring the piece to life. For some reason they won't go next to each other so that you can see it clearly, but there is a lot more atmosphere with the lighting and it really helps bring to life what was to me very dull piece of animation. So just the card to go. Then I need to write the disc and organise everything into a folder. Then onto newer and better things!

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Bigger Picture

Tonight one of my older pieces of work, 'IGOR: The Unhappy Clown' was shown at the IMAX cinema in Bradford as the opening piece of a show reel before a 3D film about a journey into space. It was quite a revealing experience in many ways: 1) I didn't know that I would get nervous about it playing and be quite as shy as I was at hearing my own voice (Masquerading as a Eastern European) put through a cinema's PA and 2) Seeing your own work on the big screen is quite an unusual thing.

I have seen it on big televisions, small monitors, portable devices, MAC's, PC's and a whole range of stuff - I've even seen it projected before. But watching it up there on the big screen with over a hundred people watching was a surreal experience that I honestly did not expect to be happening for many, many moons to come. And even when it did happen (Because I'm confident it will) I expected to be frustrating the person sitting next to me by pointing out all of the inbetweens (That's where it will probably start) or the Key frames (Hopefully that is where it will lead) or scenes (*Closes eyes and prays*) that I have animated as they flick by at some predetermined number of FPS.

Anyway. It was awesome. Nuff said.

Seconde Classe

Seconde Classe - which can be seen here is a short animated film from French animator/director Boris Belghiti. It is one of the films he made as a student I believe. This is his blog.

I saw this at the Bradford Animation Festival on Wednesday & just wanted to note it down as it was one of three stand out pieces and for me it was the the best of the three. It is about a man who just wants to get some sleep on the train to work, but is interupted by all sorts of annoying distractions. He eventually ends up losing his temper in an hilarious series of events. We have all had to get the train to work at some point or another and this animation didn't just hit home with me. It was the first time the audience had laughed out loud throughout the ten cartoons that were shown and it was a well chosen laugh too, because it really was well done. Well timed, well drawn and something that every single person has dreamt of doing. Just completely losing it for once, instead of putting up with all of the bullshit.

Love his line work.

Fantastic background design and use of computer animation on the train.

Good character design really sets this piece apart. It is very French-American.

Fun fun drawings that make me happy inside :)

I shall be following Boris' work closely as I really did enjoy this piece of work. Quality stuff. In particular his use of technology with traditional techniques really paid off. The background design was quality and his 3D and computer animation was used sparingly enough and disguised well enough to never be too invasive. The use of the camera in particular was very good. With its constant uncontrollable wobbling you really felt like you were in the carridge with the characters. Really love this piece of animation :)

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

More work....

Work work work.

video

I love it really.

Just wish I wasn't using Flash. It makes my characters look wooden and I know that I can animate quite well when I'm not doing 'computer animation' tweening and the like. I yearn for the frame by frame work but there was three animations to do for this project so it had to be this way. I set myself a bit too much to do in too short of time.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Here are a couple of vids from my final E Card. I have worked the majority of today on this one and its about 1/6th complete. I working slightly with Flash this time. Doing the scenes in one file, then exporting them into another and putting them in order. This is because I am working with a complicated sound file and syncing the animation is very difficult. I want the piece to be quite skittish and shocking to the senses as its watched. We are talking about a mugging....realistically, though it is a cartoon mugging. But I still want it to be quite effective. My brain is tired from working so I can't articulate very well. So the vids:

video

This a collection of the scenes im working on.

video

This is the video that im steadily putting together from the part I have animated in the video above. This allows me to sync the images perfectly with the sound without having to split the sound file into a hundred different pieces.

I am now completely tired of Flash and ready to start bringing my animation to life in a different program. My next brief will definitely be a challenge, but purely from an animation perspective. I am tired of fannying about with all Flash's little nuances and pretending that it is an animation program when it quite clearly isn't. And it can't output videos for shit.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Last E Card

My last E Card for this project is under production at the moment. All of the back up work, planning and preliminary work is complete and I have started drawing into Flash, getting the timing and key frames sorted first....then I will divide the drawings for computer animation and maybe do a little bit of FBF work on top.

I recorded the voices for it yesterday which went well. It is one of the more complicated sound scapes I've ever worked with because there is a lot going on at once. I took about 6 minutes worth of vocal takes and then cut them together to make the 30 second sound file I needed. It's looking pretty good so far. I originally wanted to completely animate the piece in FlipBook. But that wouldn't have been possible for my deadline (Which I am already going to over step unfortunatley due to other work demands...)

My next project will be fully animated in FlipBook - meaning it will be a shorter piece, but will be more fluent and will be my first ever fully animated piece. I expect I will run into a lot of difficulty, but with my T&P research and the knowledge and experience I already have I think it will only be putting the graft in, which I'm willing to do. I don't know what my next project will be yet - but I know it will be a little smaller due to deadlines and the fact that I need to concentrate a bit more on my T&P and Dissertation. Plus I've also sorted out a bit of work experience for my PDP which is going to take up some time yet...

...Then on top of that there is PDP things to do like - build a website, portfolio, letter header, CV and then a show-reel idea that I have got. My final show is right at the end - but luckily I have already got most of that sorted out in my head. So busy, busy times - but im enjoying it.

Here is a Time Lapse video of me putting together the my last E Card:

video

2 Hours condensed into half a minute.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

"Robbing Seagull B***ard..."

The inspiration for my final E Card came from having my chips and ice cream nicked in the same day at the sea side over the summer. Also I got shat on that day too. Frig sake. Anyway, after the concept I did some research and I discovered just what a bunch of pilfering little twats seagulls actually are...take this video here for instance.

Look at him the clever little shit. Now this one is actually quite crafty, the Sam Seagull in my E Card is a little bit more direct. How so? Well, in an armed robbery kind of way.

This is what he might have looked like....but now he doesn't...

...This is the criminal at large. Sam Seagull!

Look at him running away from the scene of the crime...

This isn't what he looks like when he holds people up....but this is the original concept drawing.

This is his poor helpless victim....

And this is Sam holding him up at gun point...

Let me take you through how it goes down with Sam. This is the first rough draft Storyboard...so its not too neat and a lot is gonna change...

Step by Step.....

He waits round the corner for a victim.

Then he jumps out and uses the element of surprise.

He screams and shouts at them and scares the daylights out of them with his squawk.

They drop what ever Sam wants and run in fear.

Then Sam enjoys the spoils.

The perfect crime I am sure you will agree and it is all here in the form of animated proof. Watch this spot over the next few days to see how I get on with animating this wonderful gem of a bird. I am using a different program and converting to Flash, so we will have to wait and see how the results are over the next 48 hours as this is a fully Frame By Frame animation. Its the direction I want to head because I'm tired of making puppets out of my cartoon characters. They are good creations and I want people to see them as 3D, real characters....rather than broken up drawings moving randomly and robotically in a predetermined manner.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Cavemen

Once upon a time (And I realise this may be very hard to accept), Cavemen ruled the Earth. Their 'advanced' knowledge allowed them to create tools, live in make shift homes and communities and also, it is commonly accepted throughout the world of entertainment, were the ones to discovered fire. But there must have been a point where they hadn't discovered fire, before they discovered fire, where after they had discovered it they could use fire, whereas previously they couldn't use it because it hadn't yet been discovered...

...Do you follow? Me neither.

Anyway, I only bring it up because it concerns my next E Card! What was it like before humans discovered...FIRE!?! Below are all of the concept drawings for the characters and even a drawing of the very cave where fire WASN'T discovered....

This piece of animation was done a while ago but I have been eager to put it towards a college project for some time because I believe it is a good short cartoon. i believe this project gave me the perfect opportunity.

My drawing style has certainly come on since.

The envelope for this particular E Card works very well. You have to click to open the envelope and then, click to open the card. I like this minimal interactivity because it doesn't stunt the piece and hold it up but it does get the user involved with the card like you would with a real card.


Fire has done a lot for us over the years to be fair to it, kept us warm, lit up dark places and opened up a whole new world of culinary delicacies; but it has also been quite harsh. It took a fair while to turn up i.e. was considerably late to the dinner party, it robbed us of our capital city (Though at the same time it rid us of a plague that historians and scientists are fairly certain would have wiped us out) and generally has this nasty habit of burning things that we would rather not have burned. Again I go back to our food. But now it even opens E Cards for us...so we can't really knock it to be fair.



But discovering fire cannot of been as easy as people thought. I prefer the Spongebob Squarepants theory of fire discovery to most other methods shown in the entertainment medium over the years, even though it is probably the most unlikely. My point, anyway is that fire discovery might have taken quite a few years of somebodies life, thus in this next E Card we see the scientist hard at work trying to discover fire and as we join him he believes he has discover fire!!! We join him on the break through as he shows it off to his bestest friend in the whole wide world...but unfortunately he has a nasty surprise in store for the scientist.

The square in the images is the camera tool that I use in Flash...which is great tool seeing as Flash doesn't have its own built in camera. I was built by a very talented programmer whose name suddenly eludes me...


So there you go. Two E Cards down and one to go. In my next blog I will be posting all the concept art and the Storyboard for my final 'Just For Fun' E Card in my 'What was it like before humans discovered...' series.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Fritz

Fritz the Cat represented a landmark in the world of animation. At the time, children and teenagers went and watched cartoons, but the 1960's opened up endless doors in the entertainment industry. It's easy to see why people get frustrated with Family Guy and its mass of fans believing they are treading new ground....when in actual fact its not even close to the over the top, crushingly real world of Fritz the Cat. Drug abuse, sex, violence, racism, antisemitism and more are all exposed and appropriately done away with in the short 79 minute classic piece of cult cinema.

The dirty drawing style, with its crude lining, poor colouring and endlessly detailed backgrounds of a very dirty, very run down NYC are the perfect device for this often erratic and daringly stated movie. Every other minute of the film the sex crazed lead cat is chasing some woman around screen and more often than not successfully screwing her in a flurry of eagerly animated positions. Never have you felt more disgusted to recognise how truthful this piece of work is! It tears open the seams guarding the bosom of humanities darkest desires and secrets and joyously laps away at the the contents we so often refer to as 'dignity'.

Though, what it really does most successfully do is break down barriers in your imagination. I don't think I've ever been as close to endorsing the idea of free love as I have been as I sit and chuckle away at this cartoon. As Fritz starts his own cultural revolution, I too believe him. He preaches in the street about 'strawberries & cream' and suddenly I hate the fat cats, I hate the big cheeses, I hate the narks and the oppression of freedom and I am one with everything this movie is telling me. I believe it because I don't think anything I have seen has ever been so starkly honest and brutal about the truth and it is only helped by the removal from reality that only a cartoon can bring to something. We are all animals, we all want to get drunk & high and screw each other and we all just want to lounge around do it every single day.

But at the same time, I want none of those the things. I have carved my own path already and I like where its going, but I know now that no matter what I choose to do Fritz the Cat will always be with me and all my ideas will consider his input.

The next day I get up out of bed and put on a shirt and smart trousers and go to work.

Hypocrite.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Finished

I have finished my first ever E Card. I am quite happy with it - I reckon there is always room for improvment in these things and am never truly happy but its fun and its silly and I like it :)

Monday, 27 October 2008

The Kirk Stomp

With the voices recorded I have cracked ahead with the animation. I had a weekend off because I needed the break and also because of personal reasons. I have moved to a new location and just got my PC back up and running so I'm back in business. This is what I did before the move:

video

28:09 condensed to 51 seconds.

This is Captain Kirk learning how to skit on the banjo and bang down hard on his Star Fleet Stomp Box. This didn't take as long as I thought it would and I was amazed at how far I could think ahead as I planned to make my character move. All my hard work with Flash and investigation into the difference between computer animation and traditional animation has paid off. I understand now that animating with Flash means making puppets out of your characters rather than endless frame-by-frame work. Because of this realisation I can make things look smooth without going to ridiculous lengths.

Sadly at the moment, I want to be drawing every frame in Flipbook and animation the entire piece...but it isn't possible so I am OK with it. My next project will be completely animated in FlipBook and the sound constructed and placed next to it. I will be going through the animation process from beginning to end to make sure I completely understand how it works and have the experience to go straight into a studio environment.

I worked for a lot longer on the other parts of the E Card, getting the sound in place with Flash is a pain the arse but doable with some hard work. I have placed the Captains Log speech into the animation now and have been tinkering with the transition sequence on the bridge. I have also finished my story board and come up what I think is a fun and original piece of work. It's not the best thing I have ever done, but it is certainly good fun.

I have completed the animation for of the other cards - I animated a short skit a while ago that I have been wanting to put towards my college work because its fun and well constructed. I documented the whole thing as I went along and have all the original sketches....I just need to find them. The only other thing to do then is to construct the E Card that you will get out of the envelope but that isn't an issue. I have also got the idea for my third and final E Card in place and have begun storyboarding that also. I will post that storyboard when it is complete and take you through it to show that I have storyboarded and planned each thing that I have done and not just knocked it all up. My folder with all my original drawings will be evidence of that too.

I haven't got long left to do all of this I might add, I want to do another project before Christmas and I have already planned for that too. I am falling behind on my dissertation reading at the moment, but that is just because I'm really enjoying my studio work. My T&P is coming together and really helping me learn all the skills I need to do my studio work - I am updating that blog a little less regularly, but working behind the scenes. It's all slowly coming together.

See you soon for another update - hopefully with my first ever finished E Card. I will leave you with this sneak preview of the already finished animation for my next E Card....oooo enticing!

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Captains Log....

Today I did something I never thought I would get the opportunity to do....I made my very own Captains Log for the Starship Enterprise. Now, I know I will never Captain any ship let alone a galaxy class one, but ti was still a ton of fun and the results are very entertaining. My immediate reaction is that it goes on a bit too long...but its quite well done, even if I do sound nothing like Shatner and more like a TV chef. I cannot post the recording here, but what I will do is post some pictures of how I went about recording the voice overs so that the effort I put it can be seen. Even though the vox are all done in a home studio environment I am very chuffed with how they have turned out, but you will have to wait and hear the quality at a later date. Some pic's:

This is where I do the speaking into - the pop shield cuts out any unwanted air hitting the microphones diaphragm and causing any horrible spikes in my wave lengths.

The black block stood on my portfolio case acts as a sound card of sorts, doing all the work that the computer would struggle with and also giving me additional control over the what is being inputted into the computer. The computer itself acts as the recording device and also the sound desk allowing me to mess around with the EQ as I see fit. For instance on this particular recording I used the sound card to boost the Low end of the signal and then pulled it all together with the EQ add-on built into the program I was using to record - which is an Internet download only program called Mixcraft. It's not a particularly advanced program in terms of what you can do with the what you have already recorded But it does allow for multiple layers and come with some basic effects that can be tinkered with to you liking. I used a lot of bass boost to give my voice a stronger sound, but pulled out some of the top end to the loose some the background noise I picked up for the computer whirring around. All this knowledge is stuff I have picked up over the last few years of playing in bands and making cheap demo CD's. Works a treat though!

This is a picture of my rig. I have dual monitors with one out putting through my HD TV so that I can watch whatever I make straight away on a big screen to make sure there is no gaps in the animation, missing colour or lines that sort of thing and also check that the level of sound is correct and that you can hear everything in the mix. Most people will hopefully be viewing my animation not only on their computer in the future so I consider this a valuable skill and habit that I have got into. By doing I get to see what the audience will see - plus watching things on a bigger screen gives you a better sense of reality and allows you to better foresee how an audience is going to react the finished product.

So there you are, I'm working hard. In my next blog I will be animating the Captain so you can expect another Time Lapse of my hard work!

Thursday, 23 October 2008

If it ain't broke, don't fix it....

....is something you will hear said around my house virtually daily as the place comes apart at the seams. Very often there is little I can do about it, but the beauty of this particular 'broke thing' is that it is my own creation and I can do whatever I want with it. In my previous blog I constructed Kirk in Flash (A program I am now definitely not that into....but that is for another blog). and I mentioned at the end I wasn't happy. A few days down the line and I was still not happy, so I decided to redo him. So here is the video - 'Re-Kirk' and at the end there are two pictures - one of the original attempt and one of the current attempt. You can see the second one is much closer to my original sketches.

video

28:27 condensed into under a minute!

To get a more accurate version of my original drawing, I traced over my character in Flash. The results are much better and I am a lot happier - but I think I will be doing the rest of the animation in FlipBook and exporting it into Flash.


New Kirk

Old Kirk

The differences are easy enough to spot, so I needed point them out - suffice to say I am happier with the newer model. Flash has still distorted him from his original shape - there was one time when I would have been more than happy with this drawing - but now he looks so static and I will only be able to animate him like a marionette puppet. He will be life less and dull looking.... I will post a blog on my hatred for Flash....or rather my realisation that it is not a tool for detailed animation!

Saturday, 18 October 2008

This ship needs a Captain!

And who should I be, you ask? Captain Kirk with his gallant shivelry and over eagerness to physically assault everybody? Captain Picard with his wit, intellect, interest in all things seemingly benine but frustratingly fascinating? Captain Janeway with her ability to get her ship stuck 7 Billion light years away from home on her maiden voyage?

NO! None of the above....my captain is William Shatner! A cameo as himself as captain!

.....alright its Kirk, I chose him because he is the most amusing; not because he is the best Captain (Because he isn't....that honor is Picard's!). I also chose him because he was the most fun to caricature, the best to satire and parody and also the most likely to play the banjo!

Here are some images and then a short video of me creating the character in Flash (A program I find myself less and less fond of...)

Yes it is a terrible stereotype suggesting all people from the Deep South are inbred and play banjo....but it is funny! It's not a normal thing for kirk to be doing though....

..........That's more like it!

Photon Torpedo's FIRE!!!

Back to the Deep South jokes though....Here's Jim blowing the old jug.

And here he is delicately playing the triangle!

I should probably apologise for the image quality....but I'm not going to. These are only rough sketches, getting the depth and what not right. I can trace completed images off of them if I want, but I don't want to seeing as how they are references for when I draw them into the computer, that is when they get polished up - like they are immediately been drawing into a Cel.

video

32 Minutes work condensed to 11 Seconds...

I'm not sure I'm happy with Flash anymore. It really transforms your drawings. The computerised version looks no where near as good as my original sketches....I might redo him but trace over one of my drawings. We'll see, I want to get this project finished....