Artist Research: Studio Yotta

2D animation, Animation, Final Major Project, Research, U6_U12, U_5

For my final major project, I have chosen to use animation as a medium to create a short 1-2 minute film. I’ve decided to research various artists and studios who focus on animation. Analysing and exploring their style and methods will allow me to take inspiration and understand the animation medium more, helping me when I will eventually get round to developing my short film.

I’ve decided to choose a studio, an animated film or series and an individual animator to research about.

Studio Yotta

Studio Yotta is a group of freelance artists and animators based in the US that work to produce various works of 2D animated media. The studio was founded by Jake Ganz in 2012 and hires mainly animators, but also background artists and concept artists online from all over the globe. They mostly aid in creating games, cartoons and other forms of 2D animation by contributing with assist animation, concept art, character designing and background production. Their clients and partners include Lab Zero Games, whom Studio Yotta helped produce the DLC characters for the 2D fighting game Skull Girls co-published by Autumn Games and Konami in 2012. They’ve also participated in creating several music video animations for various artists.

They’re art style in animation is generally very cartoony and simplistic, but also really smooth and colourful. They animate at 24 frames per second and predominantly use Adobe Flash to animate with. Other programs I could imagine them using could be TVPaint or Photoshop, but I understand that Flash is the most commonly used platform in which the majority of their animators use to animate in.

Their backgrounds are very stylistic and funky, complementing the simple animation really well. I’m assuming that these backgrounds would have been produced in programs like Photoshop. The colours range from being harmonic to contrasting to match the mood of the scene, and the composition not only works well with the animation but also stands out really well as it’s own piece of background art. The lighting is also well used, with many light sources being shown to add to the idea of dimension in a 2D environment. The scenery and background objects are well rendered and the solid cell shading helps give everything a clear sense of shape and form. Nothing commits to any painterly, brush like strokes or outlines in favour of perhaps focusing the attention on the 2D characters put in front of them.

PaulTerVoorde_animation_01

Animated by Paul Ter Voorde.

Yotta’s characters are simple yet very appealing. Because of their simple shapes and clean lines, it’s easier and quicker to draw over and over again meaning that they can draw more in-betweens to create some really smooth motion. This also means that they can afford to put time into animating other details and polish facial expressions.

The colouring on their characters are also generally simple block colours with no shading, which is commonly done with many cartoons such as Steven Universe. The only time when shading is used is for close-ups and special scenes to add effect and give the characters more dimension. Having said that, Studio Yotta has make animated videos which have cell shading in every scene. Even the shading itself is kept simple and cell-shaded to once again, focus more time on the motion and fluidity of action. This approach to animating is pretty much industry standard in today’s western cartoon animation. The lighting from the scene’s environment will affect the colour of the shading as well as sometimes affecting the overall appearance of the character’s colouring.

The simple animation style from studios such as Yotta will inspire and help me to produce efficient and effective animation.

 

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App Design Evaluation

Adobe Illustrator CC, app design, Computer, design, Digital Art, Evaluation, mobile, U62_U63, User Interface Design

Designing an app was really interesting to me, as I had never worked in Illustrator before. Being able to learn how to create shapes and vector graphic art was really eye-opening and a whole different mindset to what I was previously used to. We were given a choice of three themes for our app: fitness, student cooking or weather. I chose to create a weather app based around cartoony characters to help children read the weather forecast and also understand the nature and science behind it too!

At first, I wasn’t sure of whether to base my app around cooking or the weather. I knew that the icon and aesthetics of weather apps was something that appealed to me more from a designer’s stand point, but at the same time I thought that creating funky food icons would also be really fun. So I brainstormed ideas and sketched out rough designs for both themes and eventually settled on creating a colourful weather app targeted towards children, teenagers and young adults. I wanted to do something character based because I knew that was a strength of mine when it came to creating and designing. Having colourful, personified characters is also very popular and appealing trend towards the younger demographic, as it makes subjects and themes more relatable and human. (literally!) Personification made things easier to understand whilst also being fun and imaginative.

After finalising my idea, I moved onto researching mobile apps and looking at their icons as well as analysing their navigation and how certain design choices were made to fit with whatever function the app focused on. For example, with photo editing apps obviously the main part of it is the photo itself, so that takes up the majority of the app display. With my weather app, the main focus is obviously the weather so the main information such as the day’s temperature is the largest feature on the screen. The mascots were the other main feature, so the two components share the homepage as main text and main image. I also looked at other aspects of app navigation and incorporated basic, yet effective principles from good UI designs. I learnt that the simpler the navigation, the better – and using the touchscreen to your advantage made your app feel more natural and smooth to use. I also observed some really poorly designed apps and made notes on what shouldn’t be done when designing an app. For icons, I looked at the use of symbols and basic vector graphics to give a clean, professional and simple look to your app icon and that squashing text onto a 120 x 120 dpi canvas was a bad idea. (Resizing text to such a tiny scale would make it impossible to read as well as make it look awfully clustered and blurred.) The various elements of app design that I researched really helped me gain a better understanding to my own app’s design.

After researching, I began drawing and designing and redesigning my app details until I reached the final design. I first drafted out a navigation map of my app and story-boarded the pages, fleshing out the layout and movement of the whole app. I did my best to keep it simple and straight forward as possible so that any children or young person would find it easy to use. This mindset continued onward into my character designs too. When I made my initial sketches for my characters I knew that they were a little too complex to recreate in a program like Illustrator that heavily relied on manipulating with basic primary shapes and lines. So I kept on redesigning the mascots until I got a result that was fun, but easier to recreate digitally later on. I researched designers called Brosmind in order to help me come up with a simple art style.

Once I had planned and designed all of my app elements in my sketchbook, I scanned them in and used those drawings as a base to work on in Adobe Illustrator. It took me several weeks to eventually come round and complete making all of the icons and characters and it was a huge learning curve. I went in knowing only the bare bones of the program, but persevered with it until I finally came out knowing it pretty much inside out. It took me a while to understand it’s unique creator mindest, as working with vector shapes and lines wasn’t something I was familiar with at all. But after mastering the pen tool and pathfinder function, creating my mascots became progressively easier.

After exporting the final mock ups of my app pages, I was introduced to the program Game Salad. I used this program to create a very basic interactive display of my app, importing all of the individual components into the program before then creating scenes and adding basic events and actions using the interface’s drag-and-drop-system. I couldn’t make things too advanced as I was limited with what the program would allow me to do without digging into expressions and specific coding. But I programmed enough to have the basic page navigation working and even have some elements rotating on scene!

Overall, I am very pleased with the outcome of this project and have learnt an awful lot about Adobe Illustrator and app design. The digital colours and simple Illustrator designs really helped flesh out the look of a simple, yet fun and interesting children’s weather app. In addition to the Game Salad programming demonstrating an example of how the final app would actually function, I think the overall project turned out really well in the end and I am very happy with the results I achieved.

Neo Noir Film Trailer Evaluation

Evaluation, Film, Film Studies, Film Trailer, Neo Noir, U66

For my film course, I was given a brief to create a Neo-Noir themed film trailer based on the game LA Noire in a group. I had the roles of the production manager, script supervisor, camera operator, audio editor and production designer as well as being the on-set stylist during the shoot. I created crucial preproduction assets such as storyboards and character designs, as well as recorded the ADR dubbing and create trailer graphics during post-production.

Initially I wasn’t that familiar with the film noir genre, but I had definitely heard about it and seen clips from iconic noir films before so it wasn’t completely unknown to me. I did some more research on it and had a look at various films from the genre such as The Third Man and L.A Confidential. I also studied the various characteristics of the noir genre and was really intrigued by it’s style and mood. I looked at both the tropes and low-budget filming techniques as well as the game L.A Noire which we were to base our trailer on.

Once our research was complete, my group started planning and developing scripts, storyboards and designs for our trailer. We bounced thoughts and suggestions back and forth between each other until the script was done and ready for storyboarding. I personally think that at this early stage, I should have definitely spoken up more about my ideas and thoughts. There was a slight lack of communication and I definitely feel like I could have perhaps contributed more with the development.

When we moved onto filming, we decided to film at Drew grandparents’ house as the interior was very fitting to what we were aiming to shoot in. But because of complications, we weren’t able to film as soon as we had liked to which led to major setbacks in our scheduling. The house itself was very decadent and really suited our trailer – but I still don’t think that it was worth enough to delay our project to such an extent.

When we arrived on-set for filming, we had a look around at all the rooms and starting thinking about exactly where and how we were going to shoot. At this point I was adamant about being more active in organising the group, especially since we were having guest actors to participate. So I created a Facebook event and herded everyone together to inform them about the day’s schedule and items to bring. I also created a Skype group to help relay the necessary information onto Michael, who did not have a Facebook. I was really pleased with my efforts and I remained active on social media to message everyone and make sure that we were all updated and knew what to bring.

Overall the filming itself was a good experience. I’ve had previous experience with filming before, so operating the camera and managing the on-set environment wasn’t new to me. I had a lot of fun helping Daniel and Jacob with the directing, as well as making sure everything behind the scenes was organised whilst the filming was happening. However, I feel like I should have been more active in my participation with the main filming. I might not have been the director, but in the end it was my group’s trailer and when our guest Jacob encouraged me to make more active decisions, I should have picked up on them instead of being passive about it and leaving it to my team mates to decide.

Once we had finished filming for that day, a lot of issues began to occur. We waited a week after the shoot to receive our footage because Jacob had no way of transferring 8GB of film footage online. When we finally received the SD card from Drew, I immediately copied it onto my USB stick to keep for editing. Everyone else had downloaded the footage onto their Mac PCs before giving it back to Drew, but then Daniel’s PC had to be wiped for repair and he no longer had access to the footage. So I helped him get the files for editing, which slightly set back my work progress for editing the music and sound.

I felt that we didn’t have enough clips to work with during editing despite getting most of the scenes in the storyboard filmed. I worried about having this issue at the start too, but I didn’t actively approach it with the group on the day we filmed which was another mistake on my part. In hindsight, I feel like my group heavily underestimated the amount of footage we would have needed for the trailer. I also felt that despite my efforts to encourage our group to communicate, I didn’t manage to respond soon enough to the group’s progress. One simple way I could have improved on this would have been to organise a group meeting at the start of every lesson and have everyone come round together to discuss what we were all going to work on and how the trailer was progressing overall. Then, near the end of the lesson, we could review our progress again and make any necessary critiques and changes to each other’s work. That way we would have better tracking on our work.

In the end, I know that our group worked incredibly hard to make up for the incidents that set us back. We communicated more when we hadn’t communicated enough, and did our very best to produce quality work with what we had. Overall, despite knowing that I could have done more personally, I am pleased with how my team mates and I have responded to this project. I’ve certainly learnt a lot, and I think that the final outcome was up to the standard that the brief had set out for us.

 

Neo-Noir Film Trailer Progress Log

Film, Film Studies, Film Trailer, U66

For our Neo-Noir Film Trailer project, I was given the roles of production manager, script supervisor, camera operator, audio editor and production designer as well as being the on-set stylist during the shoot.

Character designs and Initial Ideas

At the start of our project, my group began researching different aspects of film noir to help familiarise ourselves with the reoccurring themes and stylistic motifs of the genre. We analysed trailers and looked at classic films which gave good examples as to what kinds of characteristics noir has.

I also decided to create character designs to help out with the wardrobe choice and to make sure that the costumes we would then shoot in were styled to the film noir era (early 1940s – late 1950s).

Preproduction and Storyboarding

My colleagues Drew and Daniel were in charge with producing a rough screenplay, as well as brainstorming and deciding on the different shots used in order to eventually send to me for storyboarding. Once I had received the screenplay, I then began drafting out a storyboard with help from the two to keep things accurate and consistent throughout.

Call sheets and Filming Preparation

Drew was mainly in charge of organising the shoot’s location, but I ended up helping out with adding the final details to the Call Sheet such as the weather, wardrobe and additional actor details. I also helped with the management and distribution of Call Sheets, creating a Facebook event for the shoot and messaging the film crew with constant updates about what to bring and how the day would run. I went round making sure that everyone had their props, costumes and equipment sorted out and ready to bring to the film shoot.

Filming Shoot

I arrived at the shooting location on time with make-up and hair equipment for one of the actresses, Isabel. Jacob who was in charge of bringing the filming equipment, was running late so in that time I decided to get the hair and make-up done for everyone as well as have a look at the rooms we were going to film in.

Once we started filming, I helped direct some scenes and explain to our main cameraman Jacob about the types of shots whilst referencing from a copy of the storyboard I drew. I also helped operate the camera in some shots when Jacob had to go act. I discussed various shots and angles that we could also additionally shoot at with Jacob whilst reviewing the footage at the end of every take, as well as organising food and breaks for the crew throughout the day acting as a sort of runner.

Post Production Composition and Editing

During the post-production stage, I was given the role of overseeing the overall editing in addition to editing the audio and graphics. Michael, who was in charge of picking out the music, paired up with me to find appropriate soundtracks to go in with our trailer, with Michael passing the final judgement on two tracks to then have me edit in. We created several drafts and rush edits, asking opinions from peers about what we could improve on.

I was also in charge of the ADR dubbing, and brought in my RODE NT USB Studio microphone to record some dialogue with Michael and Daniel. I then edited the audio, removing background noise and adjusting the levels before exporting it as an mp3 to edit into Premier Pro. I also managed the foley and additional sound effects which were mixed and adjusted straight into Premier to fit with the footage and cuts.

The various trailer graphics such as the title cards and production studio logos were also edited and produced by me. Drew came up with a rough design for the Nocturnal Cinema logo and was then recreated and polished by me in Illustrator before importing it into Premier.

Rendering and Upload

Once we were almost ready to render out our final trailer, I went in and fine tuned everything, adding in changes according to the feedback we received from out peers. I added more sound effects and adjusted the cuts and timing a little before rendering the final composition.

After double checking for the correct aspect ratio and resolution, I then uploaded the final outcome onto YouTube and messaged my group the link for them to see.

Management

Throughout this group project, I have helped set up and organise various schedules and messaging groups through social media to keep in touch with everyone whilst I was working. I made a Facebook group for the event to provide crucial information and resources to the crew, as well as organising and managing a Skype group for those who didn’t have Facebook such as Michael.

Every time I uploaded something onto the group DropBox, I would inform my group and update them on my progress as well as ask them about theirs and discuss things. I was also in charge of organising the final group project folder.

Copyright statements and law

advertising, app design, design, Digital Art, Research, U62_U63

Copyright laws are different in every country, but the copyright law that started in the UK came from the concept of common law; the Statute of Anne 1709. It became statutory with the passing of the Copyright Act 1911. The current act is the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

Copyright covers the rights of artists, designers, authors, photographers, musicians, film-makers and performers. When a creator creates a piece of work, it will automatically have a form of copyright to it because it is their work. Depending on what medium you are producing with, the way you choose to handle your work may vary. For example, a painter would sell their painting but keep the rights to reproduce it but an illustrator would sell or license the copyright to their work and keep the original.

Copyright in the UK is automatic and usually lasts the creator’s lifespan and generally continues on for 70 years after their death. Some exceptions include forms of media broadcasts and recordings that are only able to be protected for 50 years after their first year of publication, and presswork arrangements that are only protected for 25 years after their first year of publication. Unregistered design right or unregistered copyright properties in the UK only lasts 15 years after the first prototype or sketch, and only 10 years from when the item is first marketed.

You are your own copyright unless you are an employee for a company or brand. In that case, it is usually the employer who owns the copyright to your work related creations. If you are self employed, it is worth being extra careful when taking on client commissions and contracts in order to avoid accidentally giving the customer more rights than you are prepared to give. It is also worth archiving your work as well as saving drafts, sketches, photographs, plans, source materials or models – anything to prove that you created the original piece of work and help defend yourself against any allegations of copyright from other creators, businesses and even art thieves.

If you want protection for something that involves making new material such as recipes, formulas and novel inventions then you can apply to register for a patent. If your invention is still under development or needs finalising but you still wish to discuss it and display it, then patents can come in handy to help protect your work whilst it’s being worked on. Until this idea or invention has been filed through the first stages of it’s patenting process known as the ‘initial application’ for at least one year, you should not share or exhibit your work openly to any third parties. A granted patent can last up to 20 years.

Branding and product names can initially be protected by the ™ (trademark) symbol. This symbol indicates that you are using this name for business and marketing purposes. If you want full protection, you must register your trademark name at the Intellectual Property Office (IPO).