Sunday, 19 February 2012

British Animation Awards Screening

...And silly me forgot to comment on the BAA Screenings in Birmingham last weekend. It took place in a small cinema venue in the Custard Factory (which is essentially the UK's second city's answer to London's Soho). Proceedings were hosted by the ever-talented, ever-vocal and (most notably) ever-American Marc Silk and the attendees were a selection of animators and film makers, young and old in the field, all interested in seeing some great pieces and more so in the after party drinks afterwards. A good couple evenings.

Some of the more prominent animations shown were:

Being Bradford Dillman

While rife with dark undertones "Being Bradford Dillman" is a sweet story when it comes down to it, with a great drawing style suited to the slightly depressing, though full-of-heart subject matter.

The Eagleman Stag

A great looking stop motion piece which had been awarded a BAFTA and is out for a BAA as well. Personally, I found the main attraction to be the voice acting, and the verbosity of the script. The all-white aesthetic was nice, but the voice and the words being said were enthralling and entertaining to unreasonably appealing levels.

A Morning Stroll

Throwing some sort of time travel mechanic/generational throwback into a piece is going to have hooked from the outset. So when Studio AKA (a company already known to be unafraid of the quirky, shall we say) pull out this, a comparison of society across different time periods, each sampling their own visual style, animated flare and a truck load of hearty chuckles to trousers may have needed to be purchased.

All Consuming Love (Man In A Cat)

Even though this was about the 3rd/4th time I'd seen this on my travels, Man In A Cat is something you could watch for years and still find hilarious. It's a man in a cat for pete's sake. Start off with that premise in a funding meeting and you watch those men in the stuffy suits sitting opposite hastily scribble the zeroes in their chequebooks. Great laughs all around.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

There was once a girl called Jess Sturich

A while back I came up with this idea for a final film (I codenamed it "Jess Sturich", don't know if I mentioned it) that basically told the life story of a teenage girl, Jess. She's is a subject of our 21st century society's judgements and double standards and has her resulting decisions scrutinized by a senient being dubbed the voice. Insecurities about her friends and pressures from men colour her choices in a way that all of us would react to, and that's brought underneath the microscope. It's a film discussing religion, society, the two sides to every person and the everyday choices we make.

So, yes, I'm not doing that anymore. While (in my opinion) a great idea to try and portray, it's a long idea to set-up and deliver, while doing the premise any sort of justice. When putting together an animatic of the entire piece with images and script, the film came close to 12 minutes long, an endeavour far exceeding the constraints of my time. In order to come out with a film for the end of the semester, I need to either create a new story with my current honest of characters, or condense the plot to around 1/6th of its current state. The drawbacks of either choice being needing to spend time recreating pre-production elements or not being able to tell the story in a fair way.

Other aspects of this project which have been impacted is the hunt of the voice actress and the music for the film. The voice actress search has been fruitful and positive, some very good applicants have approached me and making the decision has been tough. However with the script undergoing revisions again, their input can't move forward. The music has been less successful. The music artist I was working with, acquired at a Animation/Music collaboration some weeks back, has fallen through and backed out of the project citing personal issues. So the hunt begins again for someone willing to add their musical talents to this undergraduates final film.

And there's the update. I'm trying to get into the habit of updating this blog weekly, I just need to remember the time I scheduled out for it. Thank you internet.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Jess: The Set-Up

Ok, so I'm going to start going through different elements of my final film. Some aspects will more developed to make the film while others may just be simple considerations. And I'm going to start with the Pop-Up Book setting.

 There's a shot from the storyboard displaying the book. It's made from about 60 layers of flat rectangular planes arranged to make a 3D book. Took a couple days of arranging and nit-picking (over an unnecessarily long period of a few weeks) to finish up and here's the result 

   I had a vision of how events would take place across the surface of the book. Through a  system of rooms, which each room containing a different environment and appropriate characters. There'd be either 2 or 3 rooms and Jess would walk through them as she recounts events. So practically realising them was the next challenge, keeping in mind, that the pages would turn. Foldable environments were key.

   But I quickly realised (as well as other people) the the center parting may have proved a problem, the dip in the pages is quite noticable. I thought about embracing the crease and having a running joke of having the characters visibly jump over the gap whenever the time came. I thought that would further cement the idea of the book and add a little more humour (if people didn't see the space and fell in accidently, for example). But that didn't pan out, because basically, I needed a floor. Also the space available with a three room set-up wasn't enough, so 1 or 2 rooms on one double page spread is all I'm allowed.

Then it came to actually designing the locations. The above ones are the initial university kitchen and the school corridor. You can see in the school passage on the left through the doorway the pink wall. That doorway is the practice method of handling that mechanic of moving through rooms. I plan on using camerawork to minimise the presence of other rooms to keep the focus on the current location. I figured that doorway is way too large.

This is the current university student house setting in development. I think the colours are good, suited for a calm living room environment. However it feel quite bare, in need of an Ikea visit or two. 

Monday, 9 January 2012

The life and death of a professional practice brief

So as I'd handed it in and am now awaiting the ultimate word, I now want to fully divulge the Professional Practice task that I've been ridiculously secretive about throughout the duration of the blog. It was a brief set by the national children's television network, CITV.

CITV approached the University of Wolverhampton (I think they'd been travelling across various colleges and universities) with the task of creating a new ident to be shown on their channel. The specs were that the ident could be anywhere between 3-12 seconds long (with the logo on for at least 2 seconds), the CITV logo provided could not be altered, and above all, it had to be funny. Well, once the insane excitement of a corporation as big as CITV coming to my doorstep wore off, I got to work on an idea.

In week 2 I came up with the funny little idea of a boy who, while having the verbal bells bashed out of him by his mother's annoying naggings, finds a remote with a button. This button, when pressed, summons sentient-like laser guns readily locked in to the exact spot the mother happens to be standing at and, with subsequent clicks, transform the target into an array of random items. I pitched the idea to the class and (when the nodding heads came in) went to work on the character designs and random items she'd become.

Some initial sketches of random items including a tutu wearing gorilla and jet-plane worm.

By the 21st October, I'd prepared an animatic to show to the appointed CITV delegates, whom said the idea was good, and with a couple details added to it could be a real contender. I think that presentation went well. I focused on the idea that it could be expanded into a series of idents, by simply changing the items that the mum is transformed into. So much so, I showed a second animatic replacing my original ideas with a picture of Horrid Henry, the Mona Lisa, and a quick blast of Nyan Cat. The idea behind that original meeting was that, after looking at the submissions, the CITV official would pick the top 5 most feasible ideas and ask them to continue to make the final article. What actually happened was that he said he saw so much potential that all ideas should be followed through and that they'd return on December 9th to pick the best.

The Boy character
The Mum character

Well, come 9th November (when the fear of a deadline in a month's time struck my heart) I retreated into my cave and began cracking away at the finished piece. Forsaking all other world pleasures (like food), I got it finished in time for the showcase. Presenting the final piece alongside 21 other peers was nerve-racking, to say the least. Marking up my work against the work of others definitely intensified a "grass is greener" feeling. I always think other work is much better than my own, so just getting enough confidence to say proudly "I think what you're about to watch is so good, people should have it transmitted through their televisions up and down the country", was hard.

Less talking was required for this one. It was pretty much, show the thing then listen to the feedback, that seemed to be the pattern. But at my turn, after I'd shown, he seemed to like it. He remembered the novelty of the idea beforehand and enjoyed the final piece without any criticism. I was really encouraged. The life-threatening pulsations given off by my too worried heart were essentially unfounded. My nerves did increase more when lots and lots of good work got shown. Mentally counting the (presumed 5) spaces being filled in 1 by 1 was terrifying. But the decision was something I didn't expect completely.

Y'see, the CITV official, once again, couldn't split hairs with so many good submissions. But he was a little more decisive than before. He proposed two winning categories of candidate. The first category was a group of 5, whom he felt were perfect as they are and could be put forth to the advanced level of testing and legality screening (like all CITV programming) to potential be used on their network. The second category, were a group of idents who, given a couple tweaks that he'd highlighted during the earlier feedback could then be put forward to the further screening. I figured I was in the latter category...but he hadn't given me any feedback before? Immediately my mind jumped to the worst possible conclusions involving scenarios where I'd have to reproduce the entire ident over Christmas. He said that the design of the boy character was too clean-cut and not mischievous enough. In order to be eligible to be taken forward, I'd have to change the boy's design. Well at least I didn't have to make the entire over. I approached him after the meeting and together, he came up with something close to want he felt was more right.

The new boy character

So over Christmas, I redesign the kid's head and have sent it off to be judged. Whether it makes it to a TV near you, I'll find out soon I guess. It was a great experience going through the animatic, final piece and pitch stages. Truly what "professional practice" is about. Here's the final ident below.