I’ve just came back from an extended weekend in London where I mixed meetings with a swanky party in Chelsea (the bank manager won’t be happy). I always find London inspires me to get the sketchbook out as a) there’s lots to look at b) it’s ever changing c) nobody would bat an eyelid if I was sketching in a catsuit. The last one is probably the reason many Americans aren’t keen on the British, as they only meet this cold Londoner who can’t wait to push past you for hesitating on the escalator (it is annoying though..)
I went to Tate Britain today as I had a bit of time to kill before my train rattled on back to Nottingham. I enjoy gallery visits in general, but I was really surprised at how good the sub-exhibition for Turner’s work was. It wasn’t anything grand, just well-researched information on his use of colour. It showed on a European map what palette he used, and how he changed over the years, adapting a more luminescent continental approach to the way he saw light in the English countryside.
One of my favourite parts was the glass case with his sketchbooks in. I can imagine people walking past him and having a good stare…his location skills for capturing a scene were incredible! Out of the paintings, I liked the looser pieces like this one:
I find watercolours great fun, although ridiculously frustrating at times when you can’t nail an idea just because of your execution. I’m just a hobbyist painter and don’t do anything fancy, I just like how to colour moves on the page really. But it spurred me on to do a few more when I got back.
I didn’t do any watercolours, just tonal sketches (only needing two pens and a sketchpad…handy!) I find it more fun if I draw little boxes roughly the size of the image I want to draw and do a quick sketch to see if I can capture the ‘squinty’ quality (if you squint your eyes and look at it, you’ll see sort of the same thing on your sketchpad, just in greyscale). Anyway, I did a few in my hour there, plus one of the grand hall as you walk in the main entrance. I know they won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I like quick sketches more than anything else. The fewer the lines, the better too! Especially for people, although there aren’t any of those kind of gestures in this post.
I’ve just recently finished off a few nice projects so I thought I’d post them up.
Viz – Channel 4′s comedy blaps
A project for Channel 4 called ‘Comedy Blaps’. I worked under the creative direction of Baby Cow with my immediate go-to-men being Alex Collier and Dennis Sisterson. At the risk of sounding like an Oscar acceptance speech, they were both great to work with and extremely positive throughout. Plus my hats go off to them for the hours they put in to get this thing done..I believe it went to the wire! No thanks to Adobe for the version control though The animation was completed in Flash and the style was of a limited nature, mainly due to the time constraints. It definitely added to the fun of it. I finished around 2 minutes of final animation, including work on the Fat Slags, Sid the Sexist, Biffa, Mutha, Fatha and Elton John (!) Well, 2 minutes if it doesn’t end up on the cutting room floor (not that there is one of those anymore).
I’m pretty sure I can’t post my animation I did yet as it’s not been released, but I can say you will be suitably shocked if you think animation is just for kids. I’ll do a brief write up or tweet when I know the release date.
GPi – The importance of feedback
This was a low budget project as part of a new venture to produce a certain array of services to corporate clients. I worked with a very nice chap called Rhys who wanted a demonstration video producing, mainly as an example of what can be done on a lower budget. The project was a learning curve for us both (the audio ran over what it was initially intended to be) but the voice over artists did a sterling job. I’d happily recommend them both (Nicky Barber was the narrator and Nick Radcliffe acted as both Sam and John).
The project had little actual animation in, just many creative problems to solve, including how to visualise certain ideas. I went through the script, helped with an edit and sourced the voice artists to record the audio track. I then cut together a working animatic and began to experiment with ways to get the ideas across. The budget restrictions meant that I couldn’t spend long on each idea, but this actually made the project fun as I had to find ways around some of my initial, more extravagant ideas!
Overall the production time was low and I’m looking forward to expanding the visuals with the next project like this early in 2012 (with an expanded budget too..always helps!)
That’s it for now. Christmas is not far away and I’ll be sending out some cards in the not too distant future (the price of stamps nearly made me faint the other day…I can see why people use email)
I went to see Spielberg’s Tintin film on Wednesday, both with genuine interest as a film fan and as an animation nerd, wanting to see whether they pulled off the motion capture without it feeling uncomfortable. I’d heard great reviews about it and having first seen the initial trailer way back where they showed tentative moving set pieces, I wondered if they had something up their sleeve or still were languishing in the uncanny valley. Well, I have to say they seem to have cracked that ping pong ball suit animation…FINALLY! This is the point where Spielberg comes out and says animating the ‘old fashioned’ 3D way would actually be easier, rather than re-working messy motion capture data. Oh wait, that’s Robert Zemeckis. And we’re still waiting to suffer the effective mutilation of Yellow Submarine next year…
I went to see the film without the silly specs. I don’t rate the extra cash for a technology that you shouldn’t be aware of after the first 5 minutes (if it’s being done properly). Saying that, it really did allow the quality of the aesthetics to shine without blurry backgrounds and jumpy gimmicks.
Normally a 3D animated film will still ‘wow’ me for a while, whilst I adjust to this reality that is being created in front of me. But I was so aware of the quality of the textures, the attention to detail in Tintin’s hair blowing in the light summer wind, that I was in awe for pretty much the whole picture. The only exception to this was during the ridiculous chase sequences towards to the end, but more on that in a minute. To prove my point, have a look at the images within this review (you can click them for large versions).
So visuals, hat’s off. If you have the smallest understanding of the work that would go into a production like this, you will be blown out of your cinema chair (of a thousand behinds..think about that next time you sit down!) OCD aside, you will love it. It’s worth half the ticket price to see the big picture up there. A real cinema experience.
As for the story, I liked 80% of it! I won’t issue any spoilers, but I found myself coming out of the film towards the end, mainly due to the heightened action that was pretty relentless. It was all good fun and very escapist blockbuster…but a bit too much than was needed.
The characters are excellent though. You’ll love the exploration of Captain Haddock and Tintin as their relationship develops (nothing dodgy going on! Just a good part of the script) and the atmosphere when the film reaches act two is pretty tidy. The final act feels a bit on a knee-jerk reaction from the finance point of view, almost like they were worried that the audience won’t be entertained if there isn’t a big crash-bang-wallop to finish, so the action shifts up a gear. But overall, the film has a nice balance of the characters fans of the books will love, and an easy route in for newcomers.
A note on Spielberg’s use of the medium. We’ve all seen the director with the sci-fi camera videos where they look into a viewer and run around an empty warehouse framing their masterpiece (see the James Cameron footage from Avatar if you need a reminder). But what Spielberg has done so well is use the camera in ways that compliment the medium, blending shots in a way that adds a whole new layer of slick to the edit, and also making it feel even closer to its comic book origins.
Now for the motion capture. This was the area I was ever so impressed with. Considering the car-crash forefathers of this technology like The Polar Express and A Christmas Carol, I was intrigued to see if they’d sorted out all those awkward elbows and soft contact points. If you don’t know what I’m on about, watch one of the previously mentioned films and then compare the spacing in the movement to something animated by a real person, frame by frame, in the computer. The timing may be the same, but the spacing is all off, so the movements become floaty and…well, too realistic. It works in live action, but animation is meant to caricature life, so we expect more.
Anyway, this film is quite a realistic take on the Tintin world. The characters have pores, ruddened cheeks and nose hair…it’s all very real until you consider the ‘cartoony’ bulbous noses that are larger than their eyeballs. This is a slightly uncomfortable side of the asethetic, and reminds you that this may want to be a cartoon but will regularly jolt you into ‘real life’. A violent scene near the beginning felt wrong, like I’d just seen something I hadn’t. Possibly because the logic of what was acceptable in the cartoon world had been broken, mainly due to my perception of what was acceptable in an ‘animated’ genre..and those lines being blurred with something closer to a live action thriller. The film has a rating of PG in the UK. I don’t want to comment on this area as I find it tedious, but I will say that motion capture could bring about all sorts of headaches to the classification board in the years to come. The uncanny valley has a swan song yet!
Overall, the film was very enjoyable and a real Spielberg blockbuster. It’s got a great atmosphere and subsequently is top-notch escapism. It’s quite a grown up animated film (if you can call it that) and not for the young kids, they’ll get bored quick. There is alot of quality humour and character play, which was surprising and one of the highlights. Not many films in this bracket have such a good script (for the most part anyway!) No rating for me, you’ll know if you want to see it or not. If you’re interested at all in the animation or visual effects industries, it’s a hot topic and there’s plenty to enjoy.
It did leave me wondering how long it will be until the animation from motion capture is good enough that studios choose that route to save money and speed up the process for other types of animated films. Will we see the animation industry changing again? Will the glut of the workforce become motion data interpreters and tweakers rather than creatives who actually have a personal input? I doubt it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone floats the idea over a coffee in West Hollywood.
A little bit late after the event but it’s been a busy stretch!
I wanted to post a follow up to my day at Flip Animation Festival in Wolverhampton (at the Light House Media Centre). I commented on the great line up including Cosgrove Hall, Bill Plympton, Marc Silk (voice of Johnny Bravo people!) and the list goes on.
I went for the Saturday and it was the warm reception I expected. A day ticket was cheap (about a tenner) and got you into everything, plus it was a nice venue for such a crowd as most people hung around chatting outside of the screenings. Light House did a spot on job and a special mention to Drew Roper who did a super-human job of schmoozing all the animation ‘stars’, keeping everyone happy and generally busting his behind making the event a success.
The highlights for me were the panel discussion about 2D and the presence of one of my favourite animation duos, the Brothers McLeod. Looking forward to next year’s event and what they can rustle up for the certain-to-be larger crowd once word gets out about this years hit.
I did this as a quick competition entry to loosen myself up with digital drawing again (it feels a bit strange after working on paper for a while!)
The entry had to lead and finish with the text you see in the video, and had to say why a bowl of soup is…well, nice to eat. I’m lucky, I quite like soup, so it wasn’t too difficult in that department. the hard part was keeping it simple as I only had two days to come up with the idea and make it. The sound was provided by the competition organisers. I would have liked it to run for the whole piece but it was good enough to get the idea across to them. I’m releasing it now as I didn’t win (none of the winners for any of the brands were animated..possibly not a good sign!) One other comment about the wiggly lines…I don’t know what is going on with Wacom’s calibration, but it seems to be worse now they’ve updated (aside from it being more accurate). It seems to do a bit of the shake rattle and roll when I’m trying to draw a smooth line, even when playing with the smoothing settings. Paper is so much easier!