Thursday, 18 November 2010

Link to the brand new MA course - be the first!

As of next year, the long-established London Animation School, more recently known as Pg Dip Character Animation at Central Saint Martins, is offering an MA option! Interested?

http://www.csm.arts.ac.uk/courses/postgraduate/character-animation.htm

Sunday, 14 November 2010

National Gallery presence

The National Gallery have recently uploaded the animations from last year's course to their website.

Unfortunately, the soundtrack has somehow been shifted, coming in two or three seconds too early. I would recommend viewing the animation at vimeo.com/lewisanimates, where the audio is on track.

Here is the link to my animation on their website:
http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/learning/inspired-by-the-collection/2d-animation/*/chooseMedia/14/

You can also view my classmates' animations by scrolling down the page.

In other news, I have been animating with Shroom Studio in London Fields since September. Their website is shroomstudio.com - I recommend that you check out their past work. I have had the privilege of working on all stages of production for clients like the BBC, governmental bodies and charities.

As for animated films, I haven't embarked on any new projects of my own since Lilith's Second Chance - I have yet to develop a concept that just can't wait to be realised. However, there are a small number of exciting opportunities coming up...stay tuned!

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Stills from 'Lilith's Second Chance'











Here are some selected stills from the film.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Plans for refining Lilith's Second Chance

Hi everyone, I now have a vimeo account at this address:

vimeo.com/lewisanimates

You can see my videos in HD, particularly the version of Lilith's Second Chance showcased at the degree show. I have to admit that I made a lot of changes to it in the week between assessment and the show, so this one isn't the version submitted for assessment.

There are also may other changes or additions I wish to make to this film. I had to miss out some beautiful shots that would have been great fun to animate but also add a little spice to an animation which has been called slow and boring by one critic. This film should, therefore, be considered a work in progress.
Among the shots I would like to add are:
1) Before the shot cuts from the exploding Houses of Parliament to Lilith on the bridge, I would like to add a quick pan across to show the change in perspective - otherwise the point of view is unclear.
2) To do a proper 3D camera move in after effects with the bridge, so that I can add a cracked pavement texture to the road underneath Lilith, which is currently plain black. I had attempted a camera move before, but the bridge didn't move exactly in sync with the character animation. This will be very tricky.
3) When Lilith comes into view on the river, I would like to show her slowly emerging from under the water. This would be difficult because she is constantly moving, but beautiful and worth the trouble! It would also make it clearer that she is the same woman, as she looks so very different in her spiritual state.
4) My least favourite shot is when she turns to look at the wolves - it seems so wooden and artificial. I wanted to make her head turn slow to represent her stunned disbelief but instead it looks like bad acting, particularly since her body doesn't move. I would very much like to have her twist her torso and prop herself up on her elbows or something.
5) To add more movement and variation in the wolves.
6) After morphing to the bears, I want to cut to a side shot of the bears swimming, similarly to the shot with the fish. This will allow me to cut back to the aerial shot of the bears swimming out of sync with each other. It's difficult to explain, but morphing from the wolves to the bears meant that I had to have them swimming in sync with one another, which looks mechanical.
7) To drop the camera behind the last bear in the pack, to submerge the camera underwater and swim between the legs of the bears, before shooting back up through the water to meet the next scene, where the camera is looking upstream and then rises up to fly over the hills at great speed. This was a favourite point in my animatic but not essential to the comprehension of the narrative, so had to be sacrificed for more vital scenes.
8) To add more in-betweens over the hills, more form and more texture. At the moment, it looks like a rough draft, as there is no colour. I would like to make the river blue as in the other scenes, add some Celtic pattern textures to the forested hills, and add some sky with clouds.
9) To create a cathedral grove when she approaches the source of the river. This will then be taken out of context, changing to a symbolic space depicting the tree of life (e.g. Yggdrasil of Norse mythology) hanging over the earth before an image of outer space, smothered in a network of rivers and pumping like a heart. This will pull out to reveal the rivers forming a body of veins - a body matching Lilith's shape and movement on the river. Then I will probably cut to her being launched upwards by the last drop on water in the stream.

This final idea is a new one, actually, which came to me as I read a passage of Simon Schama's 'Landscape and Memory,' which never ceases to fill my head with ideas. I was just waiting for a friend in the library so I opened the book at a random page, read one passage and was instantly inspired! It was a discussion about the quest to scientifically explain the formation of rivers and briefly mentioned the ancient classical view of the earth as an organism with systems similar to those of the human body.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Almost there!

There's now just one week left until the assessment of our National Gallery projects. Everyone has been working so hard and going a little crazy - some of us have been eating all of our meals in the studio and have completely cut out any kind of social life.

Luckily for me, everything has been going fairly smoothly from the beginning. However, this doesn't mean I'm on track at all -after having initially planned out all of the scenes for my project, I soon realised how much I would have to cut out if I had any hope of getting a coherent animation completed on time. There are so many symbolic elements that I had wanted to include but have had to sacrifice, which is a little sad because the conceptual research is what got me really fired up and passionate about my idea in the first place. I will definitely polish things up over the summer to include some of the cut scenes, which will help to make the narrative more comprehensive. However, it's a shame that I won't be entirely happy with what I have to show for assessment on the 18th and at the private viewing on the 25th.

Some of the clips in progress have been posted on my Youtube channel. Please check them out if you have the time, unless you don't wish to spoil the surprise that the final animation will bring!

http://www.youtube.com/user/JennytheNomad

It's hard to recognise how much you are learning whilst the process is ongoing, but I can feel how much more confident I am in the Ps, Fl and Ae programmes than I was six months ago. Even though everything hasn't gone to plan, it's a great feeling to know that I am learning so much along the way. Most of all, I have learned that I MUST be more organised with the planning of my animation projects from the very start, particularly with time management!

Monday, 17 May 2010

Final Project in progress

Here are a couple of clips from the first scene. Again, these are templates to be traced so that you will only see a few brushlike highlights of the forms against a nighttime backdrop.
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Thursday, 6 May 2010

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Swimming Wolves

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This is the pack of grey wolf spirits that will carry Lilith for the first part of her journey. I have changed Eve's name to Lilith because she is a far more interesting and obscured figure from the same mythic tradition.
As with the bears, I will rotoscope the form of the wolves and the ripples with painterly effects.

Monday, 3 May 2010

On Friday, the class had a meeting at the National Gallery to show our animatics and get feedback, and hopefully approval, from the tutors, visiting professionals and gallery representatives. It was fascinating to see everybody's work and made me extra excited to see the finished products; some of the plans look like so much fun to animate that I was even a little envious that I wouldn't have the privilege!
I am pleased with the feedback I obtained. The critics were merciless but seemed interested in my ideas and the themes I am exploring. Most importantly for me, they have convinced me to cut out all ancient motifs that aren't clearly linked to the river Thames or English culture. I had wanted to include many interesting mythic figures and symbols from ancient civilisations across Europe and back to the Sumerians at the dawn of civilisation, as I belief these ancient worldviews have trickled down to inform the foundation of the Thames's cultural history. Although I was most interested in ancient English tribal culture, I wished to be as diplomatic and politically correct as possible; to claim ancient English traditions as the source of the Thames's history might seem too anglophilic/anglocentric in a BNP-paranoid climate and exclude all of the citizens of London who are not of English heritage. However, I was persuaded that the ancient English culture I am interested in exploring and expressing has been sidelined by a distortion of what English culture stands for and that I should play a part in redressing the balance.
Today, I visited the British Museum for the first time for some visual research into ancient Celtic imagery and did some sketches of the oldest artefacts with any discernable pattern, some of which came out of the Thames itself! Perhaps I can incorporate the circular motifs into the setting sun and the linear motifs onto the barks of trees.
Here are some of the patterns I have chosen to be most appropriate:











Monday, 26 April 2010

swimming bears

Here is the test of a template I will use to show the bears swimming. These bears, which are actually ephemeral embodiments of the river, will carry Eve for the first stage of her journey before they morph into wolves. I created this animation with clear black lines because I will be rotoscoping them later in photoshop for the desired look.
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Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Mood board




Here are some mythological images I have collected which I find inspiring for the National Gallery project. They are from various traditions, particularly Greco-Roman, Germanic, Babylonian, Celtic, Norse, Egyptian and West Asian.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Eve Design

Below is an image to demonstrate my character design process and how I intend to use symbols, i.e. the different body parts, to do the basic animation.

As you can see, I have carefully made the drawings of Eve from different angles in proportion with one another to enable accurate in-betweens.

Adobe Illustrator brushes

Below are some experiments with Adobe Illustrator brushes to help me to come to a decision as to the style I want for my animation. The plan is to animate clearly defined shapes as templates in Flash, such as the character design in my previous post, before exporting the stills to trace them in Illustrator.

The images below are traced from my storyboard for the National Gallery project. I have traced over most of the outlines in this case so the content of these still images are clear. Once it is animated, however, I think the movement will make the content of each frame more clear so that I can create fewer, subtler brushstrokes.







Saturday, 17 April 2010

Eve



This is my first design for the protagonist of my animation. It is not the intended final visual style, but to be used as a motion template for tracing over at a later stage. I will animate this model in Flash and possibly trace where the highlights or shadows may be on the form in Illustrator or Photoshop.

I have called her Eve for now for the sake of convenience (so that I don't have to repeatedly write 'our protagonist' etc.) although I may change her name later depending on what I want her to represent, e.g. Lileth!! So far, she represents nobody in particular: any and every woman and man.

This is an unusual character design to me and required a careful balance between the principles and the aesthetics. I wanted a figure that conveyed a strong sense of ethnicity: her colouring is very washed out and her mouth, nose and hair are caucasian; her incredibly long arms and legs are like those of a male African athlete; her cheekbones and chin have tribal, mask-like qualities. If this is controversial, at least it will trigger some discourse!

I also wanted to convey strength without denying her femininity. For power, I gave her a strong neck, broad shoulders, long arms and large hands and feet. As these features are typically masculine, I balanced them out with broad hips, long legs, long hair and a tiny waist. Hopefully the unusual proportions won't make the animation look unconvincing.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

As I was exploring, and, admittedly, getting lost in the National Gallery, I couldn't help being ensnared by 'The Thames below Westminster' (1871) by Claude Monet. It jumped out at me because although it's mystical and aesthetic, I could tell that Monet wasn't glamourising the scene and it is essentially a documentation of what the Thames was like at the moment Monet observed it and so it holds a similar fascination for me as century-old documentary photographs. It also shows London in a state of industrial development which has caused me to think about the evolution of the city of London and how it seems to epitomise contemporary global society.



I foolishly chose to disregard it at the time as I didn't see any narrative potential. However, it stuck in my mind and as I began my research for thematic inspiration by reading 'Landscape and Memory' by Simon Schama, this painting seemed to embody many of the ideas about cultural history that were of interest to me. It will also make this project a kind of site-specific artwork as it will give me the opportunity to reflect upon my acquaintance with the city of London this year. I moved to London for the first time in October and it is a truly fascinating place - I would love for it to feature literally in my final project. Hollywood treats LA, and otherwise New York, as the centre of the universe; London is often spoken of in a similar manner by Londoners and in the media.

I have also been reading 'The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Mythology' by Arthur Cotterell and Rachel Storm and am attempting to plough through it cover to cover. It is concise and a good starting point, although it disregards any kind of mythology outside of Europe and Asia! In my research, I have been keeping an eye out more for mythological figures that represent a particular kind of relationship towards the environment and figures of life, death and renewal, breezing over the love affairs and warriors.

My current idea is to animate a journey upstream from London to the source of the Thames in a similar attitude to Marlow's journey to the Heart of Darkness. My tale will move in the opposite direction to Conrad's, geographically, temporally, spiritually and conclusively!
The character is thrown into the river from the middle of Millenium Bridge during an apocalyptic nuclear war in London, whereupon time is frozen. As the character travels upstream, they travel backwards through the millenia to the source of civilisation in Britain, where they become assimilated into the landscape. Along my character's journey upstream, I wish to incorporate various mythological motifs. There is a risk of the film becoming too cluttered so I may have to limit myself to Celtic mythology.
My character will drift, unconscious, on her back, serenely flowing through the water. She awakes to find herself transported upstream by a current that takes the form of various extinct species from England throughout the ages. The camera spans over the landscape with great exertion of speed at times, always following the river. Our character catches up to indicate the great distance she covers and the inconsistency of time. As the river narrows, she is passed from the backs of fish to animated water droplets that carry her beyond the source of the river. She is then passed to the blades of grass and carried to the peak of a mountain. When the grass is gone, she is tossed up by the wind in somersaults. Sitting at the top of the mountain, she somehow becomes assimilated into the landscape, e.g. she transforms into a seed, flower or acorn, is blasted upwards and then into a forest.

I am trying to achieve a tricky balance between:
1) creating a conventionally structured and easily grasped narrative that will appeal to every audience.
2) challenging the assumption that all animation must be commercially accessible, experimenting with unconventional narratives/ non-narrative forms, e.g. depicting an experience rather than an event.
Of course, it would be a mistake to venture too far in the latter direction, as this is a character animation course, after all and by definition needs to focus on the animation of a character! It could also be professionally irresponsible of me to scare away commercial studios by rebelling in this way, but it's a risk I'm willing to take.

Epic, I know, but it doesn't have to be longer than a minute. When people speak of their life flashing before their eyes, it takes but a fleeting moment. Likewise, I want to attempt to contain the impression of tens of thousands of years. Hey, it wouldn't be exciting if it weren't a challenge!

Planning for the National Gallery Project

Our greatest and last assignment for this year is to create an animation inspired by one of the paintings from the permanent collection at the National Gallery. You can browse their collection at this address: http://nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/
It might appear that their are too many options, but knowing already that I would not choose an aristocrat's portrait, a medieval Madonna and Child, or the classical depiction of Greco-Roman myth narrowed down the choices considerably!

Although I tried to enter the gallery with an open mind, I was interested at the time in different ways of visualising landscape, so my inspiration radar was biased. The first painting that appeared full of possibilities for me was 'Lake Keitele' (1905) by Akseli Gallen-Kallela. This is a very sensual painting, where you can feel the cool, smooth fluidity of the lake simply by looking, i.e. haptic visuality. The tranquility represents the purity of the unspoilt Finnish landscape to me and reflects the whispered mystery of its cultural history.
The choice of framing and composition is unconventional; it would be interesting to know if this is because Gallen-Kallela is making a deliberate statement about the conventions of landscape painting or because the artist comes from a tradition of landscape visualisation where this kind of imagery is not altogether unusual.
The ripples in the foreground were supposedly formed by the passing of a Norse god on his boat; this opens up a great deal of thematic and narrative potential for an animation. It certainly highlights the specificity of a particular moment in time and therefore the transience of reality in visualising landscape, akin to Turner's experiments with painting the same subject at different times of day.
The choice to represent an epic tale with such a gentle stroke makes classical paintings of mythology appear crude in comparison and overly illustrative. I know very little of Finnish culture, but this subtlety seems to exemplify this country's general personality in the global community today. Perhaps it is a statement about how these ancient cultural traditions are slipping into the past, as they are only a whisper next to the blaring rabble of globalised media entertainment.



I have been interested in exploring Norse culture for while and this painting would offer the perfect opportunity. However, as this may be the only personal animation of any substantial length I will have the opportunity to create for a while, it is important that it bears some meaning to me on another level. As I have no personal connection to Finland and could only hope to gain a superficial understanding of the significance of Lake Keitele to the artist, I would neither be able to do the painting justice, nor to tap into any deeper understanding of life.

Monday, 29 March 2010

'Dinner Time' Stills











Please check out this animation on Youtube, as the file is too large to upload on this blog. The channel is JennytheNomad.
Instead, I have included some stills for you to see the details of each frame. All of these images are in-betweens that you cannot fully perceive in the animation so here they are in all their glory :)

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Unleash Hell

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A short lip-synch exercise. The soundtrack is from the opening scene of Gladiator!

Quelle Bonne Surprise!

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An exercise in facial acting. This lady is feeling bored and fed up when a bouquet of roses bursts into the scene from an extended arm. She does a flirtatious flick of the head and flutters her eyelashes. Then a mime pops up from behind the flowers. Needless to say, she is disappointed.

As the resolution is rather low, I have posted some stills below so that you can see more detail and the inner workings of the animation!

Alternatively, for a good quality video, please visit my YouTube channel, JennytheNomad.





Saturday, 20 March 2010

Minotaur

Unfortunately, there are errors in uploading this video onto the blog, so please go to my YouTube channel, JennytheNomad, where you can view this clip and others in good quality.

An exercise in acting and reacting with emotion. It was a little challenging because his emo hair covers the eyes so I relied on the body language and mouth to convey the emotion. I actually based his head on a highland cow! This minotaur is a true softy at heart.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

The Kindness of Strangers

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Our first lip-sync exercise. Steve recorded his children reciting popular movie lines and assigned a phrase to each of us for lip-syncing.
I sneakily chose a slovenly character so that I would only have to animate the wave of his hand and the tilt of his head to go with the dialogue! This stasis meant I could make a more decorative background :)
Can you guess the story behind this scene? Please comment with your interpretations!

Monday, 18 January 2010

Cougar

An exercise in four-legged gallops.
I chose to do a fleeing cougar using footage of a cheetah running as reference material because I wanted to exaggerate the squashing and stretching in order to make the movement expressive.
As it happens, the cheetah's torso fluxuates so much in real life that I actually had to tone it down!!
I drew the images on paper and scanned them into photoshop, where I cut out each image and deleted the background. I adore that organic texture of drawing on paper and much prefer the aesthetic appearance of this animation to those drawn straight into flash. I feel that if you combine digital imagery with material imagery, the papery texture looks intentional rather than sloppy.

Enjoy!

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