Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Week 2

Our history and theory lecture covered film form and genre which will help massively when I come to create ideas for animated films, since we looked at sub-topics such as the classical Hollywood narrative components, film development in the USA and genre theory. Film development, I found, was quite an interesting topic since it covered various periods of the developments in film, not dissimilar to the movements in art (e.g. fauvism and neoclassism) The many varieties of these periods included german expressionist film, 1910-1920, which had a strong influence on the horror genre using techniques such as unresolved endings, and French impressionism, 1910-1920, which used close ups on the face to portray the characters feelings.

Viewing the history of film form in this way will give me a deeper understanding on the origins of a form, juxtaposed with the social and political history, which I will then be able to use to create something new and fresh.

In animation principles, we looked at squash and stretch and anticipation. Squash and stretch is the principle of how an object squashes, or how it stretches, and it helps to make animation more 'life-like' and 'solid', creating the illusion that the drawing has volume and dimension. Anticipation is the preparation for the action, for example, crouching before jumping and pulling your body back to run. When this principle is properly timed, anticipation can enable the viewer to better understand the movement, be it rapid or slow action, that is to follow and also creating the perception of weight or mass.

Using these principles and the previously looked at principle timing, we were given a task to create a small animation of a simple cube-like man jumping from a ledge:

I'm pleased with the way this animation turned out, as it's a very natural looking peice of animation it terms of the timing but it could do with a holding pose at the end of the jump. There is a lack of anticipation before the cubeman jumps which I will keep in mind to put more emphasis on in future animations. I also feel that the volume of the cube is increasing when it hits the floor, as well as too much squash and stretch.

In life drawing we started off by capturing poses in about 15-20 minutes, which I felt at ease with seeing as this is only the second life-drawing session I've had. I'm fairly pleased with what I'd produced but I still need plenty of practice.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

The Beginning...


Representation n 1 the act or an instance of representing or being represented. 2 an image, likeness, or reproduction of a thing. 3 (esp. in pl) a statement made by way of allegation or to convey opinion. For me, I feel that all those above meanings of representation, occur throughout every animation even if it’s not planned or obvious. Even if it’s not literal, it’s conveyed figuratively to the audience throughout all animation.

As well as representation we also have to recognise the difference between the thing (the subject, referent) the concept of that thing (or the signified), and the sign or signifier that represents it. So our experiences of the world give us the base for our concepts which range from real-world objects, fictional things to general ideas. A Swiss linguist, Ferdinand de Saussure, stated that there is no fixed link between the sign and the signified. This is because everyone has different experiences on which to base their concepts. This lecture delved more and more into these ideas linking to stereotypes, the common and recurring representations, which was what the reading texts: “Constructing the Pentimentos of Women’s Animated Bodies” by Elizabeth Bell and “The Birth of a Notion” by Irene Kotlarz. Both academic essays look at the way in which stereotypes are included in animation, Bell looking at the woman stereotype, and Kotlarz looking at the black stereotype.

This led us nicely into the afternoon with our screenings of an extract from Snow White where the dwarves need to be clean in order to eat their supper, Daddy’s little bit of Dresden China that has a short sequence at the start, setting the scene with a modified retelling of snow white. Both done in 1942. Other animations included Krazy Kat and Ignatz the Mouse at the Circus by George Herrimen in 1916, Felix Turns the Tide by Pat Sullivan and Otto Messmer in 1922, Gertie the Dinosaur by Windsor McCay in 1913 and The Skelleton Dance by Walt Disney in 1929, all hitting upon the idea of representation and concept.

Our main afternoon screening of a feature film animation, was the controversial Coonskin. This animated film set against live-action background photos and footage, utilises a number of references to the various elements from African-American culture, satirising racism and touching upon many other stereotypes including the blaxploitation genre. This genre emerged in the 1970’s targeting the black urban audience which featured black actors and the music genres funk and soul in these films. There are many similarities with this film to Disney’s Song of the South, on which Coonskin was loosely based upon. The three main characters of the stories in both films being told are very similar: the rabbit in both films wants to just pack up and run away from trouble, but as we know your troubles will follow you wherever you go until they are resolved; the fox is always depicted as the sly of the three although he is less malevolent in Coonskin;, and Brother bear who is the most loyal. Other similarities include the reverse psychology that both rabbits use, to evade certain death and the sitting target of the tar figure, although they're used for different purposes. There is also a certain connection of similarity to The Godfather, the family crime that appears, with both films families wanting to hold the power.


Like history and theory, the day of Animation Principles start with the underlying basics for practical work, that without them, the complexities of detail wouldn’t work without the simplicities of the basics. So what is Animation? In the sense of cinematography it’s the technique of filming successive frame-by-frame manipulation of images or drawings, or the positions of puppets or models to create the illusion of movement. When the still images are played in rapid succession we see the optical illusion of motion due to the phenomenon of the persistence of vision. This phenomenon of the eye, by which even nanoseconds of exposure to an image result in milliseconds of reaction (sight) from the retina to the optic nerves. And with this, we look at a couple of the very early animating devices including the Zoetrope. The zoetrope is a cylindrical device with vertically cut slits down the side, and underneath these slits on the inside, a long strip with a series of individual frames can be inserted. When spun around we observe the optical illusion of motion.

After this was shown, we were let loose with a zoetrope strip and our imaginations. But this being my first time at doing hand drawn animation, I decided to keep it simple and draw a series of circles, that when spun in the zoetrope would give the illusion of a bouncing ball. I was really pleased with the final outcome of this even though it was a simple idea, the timing was right with good fluidity to the animation.

After this simple start to animation, we then delved into creating a morph. From a plain circle we need to use 12 postcards, which in viewing terms is one second, to morph it into another shape or series of shapes. Since there’s such a small time to convey this change, I decided to keep it simple, morphing a circle into a triangle adding a droplet red/purple colour. I’m happy with the way this turned out, and really liked the fluidity of it but I think I could have used much bolder black lines and maybe more vibrancy to the colour. If I were to do this again I’d use swirls of colour as the droplet hit’s the morphing circle and carry on the two droplets off the page. Overall though I thought this was a sound first hand-drawn animation.

With learning hand drawn animation comes the learning of 3-D animation using Maya in the afternoon. Now I love these programmes as much as the next guy, but how long must it have taken to create a programme like this with all those interactions? Anyway, with as many buttons as there are, it’s quite easy to get your head around the basic functions of moving and rotating objects, creating lighting and key framing for animation, as well as simple rendering. Although I do think it could take some time before I’m fully at ease with using this programme.


Wednesday is the day that brings note taking to whole new level. Our visual thinking seminar with Oli Brown shows us that you don’t have to take notes writing words, but instead, drawing pictures. It involves, folding a piece of paper into 16 segments so that whatever drawings you make can be done in a chronological manner. With more practice though you start to create your own style of drawing notes. Not only does this work in making lecture notes, but also essay writing, list making i.e. things to do or general shopping and even conveying personal thoughts and emotions. It works because pictures have more possible and more meanings than a clarifying word. We tried out a few exercises to see if we would work best and take and retain more information drawing doodles, than writing words. Firstly we were asked to think about what we’d like to do in the next five years, whether it’s travelling, thinking of a possible career and things we’d like to achieve, creating a graphical list. After working on this exercise for a few minutes we were then asked to watch a video and record the information being told to us.

The image above shows a series of drawings about the video we watched. It's the story of how an ordinary person was to go to court and face charges of stealing $11m from the New York Bank while he was on the other side of the world in St Petersburg with only a computer. We were then asked to quickly sketch the word analyse.

I found these a quite challenging tasks as I’m so used to writing and taking notes with words and sometimes with the odd occasional doodle or picture to accompany, so I may do a few of these exercises in spare time to see if I prefer drawing notes than writing notes.


Life drawing. And just drawing anything recently shows me just how out of practice I’ve gotten over the past few months. Life drawing is considered to be the most difficult subject an artist commonly encounters and the only way to overcome this is with plenty of practice. As this fist drawing class started I thought it would be really hard to get the proportions of the body parts right. We started off doing some sketches of the model skeleton to just get a feel of the anatomy of the body, and since I’d never done this before I felt a bit daunted by the prospect of getting everything wrong. So to start out I concentrated on a few areas of the body: the head, shoulder and pelvis area, just trying to concentrate more on the shapes of what I could see not what I thought I should see. I’m really satisfied with the way these first drawings turned out although maybe I could have given a bit more definition with bolder and darker lines. After this, we then moved onto looking at and capturing various poses within a short space of time, 5 minutes. Seeing as this is my first go a life drawing, I’m relatively happy with the way my drawings turned out, but I think I could do with more practice to capture poses even more quickly without as much detail shading, as well as trying to perfect the human proportions.

And so a new era begins...

There was once a time when I sat at various screens, TV, cinema and computer monitors either watching films or tutorials, playing computer games and forever daydreaming. Little did I know about the huge effects computer games and animated films could do to you.

And here I am, embarking on an adventure of animation exploration, thinking of new ideas and concepts that no-one possibly never thought of before, as well as studying in a most beautiful and awe-inspiring place is in itself a very unique learning experience. And so a new era begins…