Final Major Project: Initial Ideas and Development

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

The idea for my final major project animation stemmed from a number of things, but the majority of inspiration comes from my friends and family and the funny incidents that have happened in my life. I also took this as a chance to add some subtle comedic commentary on the modern day, starving student’s experience with self finance.

One of the more profoundly bizarre books that I grew up with was called The Runaway Pancake, originally a Norwegian folktale that probably got translated and illustrated into the form of an English children’s book that I read in nursery. The story was about, well, a pancake that didn’t want to be eaten and ran away from the family that was about to eat it. I loved the story so much, I took it home and read it again and again. It was such a weird story, but clearly back then I must have thought the idea of having to chase your meal as it ran away was incredible. When I was coming up with ideas for the plot of my animation, I thought that basing my animation off of a fairy tale or something similar would be a good, simple baseline to work off of. I must have been hungry at the time, because The Runaway Pancake was strangely the first to come in mind.

Numerous scenes are based off of various events that I’ve been through such as my parent’s wedding, which inspired the brief interruption scene where sushi boy can be seen barging through a couple’s wedding. This didn’t actually happen in reality, but the thought always crossed my mind as rather humourous. The same went for the majority of the other scenes. The people featured throughout the short are mostly based off of my peers and family. The eye bags and messy black hair on sushi boy was taken somewhat from my older brother who would occasionally fill me in on his experiences with living off of dirt cheap snacks in university. And pizza girl’s design and background was based off of one of my good friends who wore glasses and loved history. And the pizza? That came from another friend of mine who ordered me pizza when I was feeling ill a couple of times. I wanted to take this opportunity to make an animation and sort of pay homage to all my friends and family for their support over the years with some wacky, cartoony fun.

The idea to use the William Tell Overture as the main music was decided when I was thinking about what kind of music I could use for a short and comedic sketch. I knew I wanted it to be film with no dialogue; partially because I didn’t want to spend too much time on the sound when the main frame of the work was the animation and also partially because I was hooked on the silent-type comedy that I saw in really classic cartoon shows like Tom & Jerry. I grew up watching the Hanna Barbera show and it had a huge influence on me. Slapstick comedy like that was just silly and wonderfully over-exaggerated so I wanted to go for something like that. And seeing as how instrumental music and classical music played a big part in the Golden Age of animation, I decided to try out something classical. I have a soft spot for classical music myself, having been taught the violin and messing around with my brother’s piano growing up. We didn’t have an alarm clock when I was in primary school, so my mother would use a huge stereo radio and play classical music on max volume every morning to wake me up. Suffice to say it’s been well integrated into my sense of being.

I went back to the town I grew up in to use as a reference for the setting of my animation. I knew that the start would be in a sushi restaurant. But as the sushi would roll away, it needed a setting to essentially roll through. That’s when I took the high street as an inspiration. Spending a day out was quite nostalgic and I had a lot of fun taking photos and looking for ideas.

Artist Research: Animation Inspiration

2D animation, Animation, design, Research, U6_U12, U_5, Visual Studies

What inspired my animation style for my final major project film was a culmination of different animated shows and studios that were some of my favourites; from Cartoon Network, to Warner Bros, to Disney Television Animation and even European and French animation. Seeing how everyone’s styles stem from or are influenced by styles they’ve been presented with previously, it’s only natural to develop a hybrid of sorts among aesthetics. But from simple body forms from shows such as the Power Puff Girls to very stylistic shows like Samurai Jack to the hyper-realistic proportions of the DC animated superhero films, I decided to stick with the watered-down forms of animation commonly seen in most animated cartoon shows for the sake of keeping it all simple and easy to manage in the short 10 weeks or so that I had.

I had a look at a lot of current shows by people who I considered to be in the newer age of cartoons such as Rebecca Sugar’s Steven Universe and Patrick McHale’s Over The Garden Wall. I absolutely adore the simplicity of the character shapes. They were basic enough to be drawn over again and again easily, but still retained enough detail to be recognisable and distinct which I think is something that’s really valued in terms of design. The colour palette’s are masterfully done in both shows, adjusting and complementing to the mood and tone of the show brilliantly whilst still both being targeted towards the younger audience.

The backbone for the style that I developed for my short film mainly derived from an art style that I had previously experimented with and really enjoyed drawing. The red noses came directly from the Nintendo game Animal Crossing which I loved playing at the time, and the stick-man-like figured were simply me just using a basic body shape to practice dynamic poses with. I remember once getting a comment from peer who told me that, “your art style kind of reminds me of Don Bluth. Y’know, the guy who did Dragon’s Lair? Yeah – it’s the limbs I think, like the arms and legs.” I honestly don’t think my art style is quite that of Don Bluth’s, but I could sort of see where he was coming from.

When I moved to digital animation, I really wanted something like the cartoons I saw on television. Simple animations with a simple style, but with an effect performance and narrative. I turned to some animations that I personally really loved to emulate and revisited the webseries ‘Eddsworld’ created by Edd Gould. It was truly unfortunate that Edd passed away in 2012 because I really enjoyed the comedy and originality of his content and was always looking forward to his next animation. I kept following the Eddsworld Legacy series that started in memory of his work and fell in love with the animation. One of the animator’s that was hired to do the majority of the new work was an animator called Paul Ter Voorde, who coincidentally also works for Studio Yotta. The way that he was able to give such fluidity and dimension to really simplistic characters was something that I wanted to try and aim for.

To put it bluntly, I took the style of Animal Crossing, meshed it with the bodies from Steven Universe and tried to animate it to the style of the new, frame-by-frame Eddsworld. It’s a combination of various shows and styles that has influenced me over the years. With maybe some inspiration from the exaggerated facial expressions and comedy in Hanna Barbera’s Tom & Jerry. Nothing like taking from the classics!

TomandJerry_facialexpression

Artist Research: Gravity Falls

2D animation, Animation, design, 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 and an animated film or series to research about.

Gravity Falls

Gravity Falls is an animated television series created by Alex Hirsch that aired on Disney X D from June 15, 2012 to February 15, 2016. The show follows the twins Dipper and Mabel Pines as they go to stay with their Great Uncle Stan Pines (Commonly referred to as Grunkle Stan,) in the fictitious town of Gravity Falls, Roadkill County, Oregon for their summer break. When Dipper Pines thinks that it couldn’t get any more boring, him and his sister discover some hidden secrets which soon begin to unravel the town’s many mysteries.

garvity_falls_character_design

The main cast shown in the opening credits of the show. Featuring Soos, Dipper Pines, Grunkle Stan, Mabel Pines and Wendy Corduroy.

The series not only has a wonderfully comedic and lively story, but also has some great Disney Television animation to boot. The animation’s art style was crafted by the creator and CalArts alumni Alex Hirsch and is very cartoony and colourful. The character’s big, round eyes and abundance of curvy lines and amusing noodle-like limbs create a soft and charming approach to the art style which can be commonly found in many of today’s cartoon shows such as We Bare Bears, Adventure Time and Over The Garden Wall. With such a simplistic character style, it allows a lot of potential to shape and stretch the form in terms of both appearance and animation. The style carries through consistently among the wide cast of diverse looking characters ranging from differences backgrounds and sizes, making the world and the people in it contrasting and dynamic.

There is a subtle use of 3D animation int the series too, if you look hard enough. Of course, 3D elements are probably cell-shaded or rendered and traced over in 2D. For example, the golf cart in the first episode could have very possible been 3D. The way it moves and the angles shown in it’s animation is incredibly consistent and sort of lacks the rough characteristics of 2D in compensation for smoothness and production efficiency. It’s very well blended with the rest of the environment despite it’s contrastingly smooth motion. The filters and gradients are likely to be added in After Effects in post-production.

Not all shots would have had the golf cart in 3D though. Considering this, they probably used 3D in the more complex shots where the angle of the cart would have been too much too hand-draw. This method of integrating 3D animation into 2D to help aid production has become increasingly popular to Disney as well as many other animation studios out there.

golf_cart_cgi

Gravity Falls © Alex Hirsch, Disney Television Animation

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Gravity Falls © Alex Hirsch, Disney Television Animation

The backgrounds all hold a very strong colour palette to really help set the mood and atmosphere of the scene. The lighting and gradients over some of them also really throw the scene together. There’s a variety of locations and a variety of environments throughout the show, all having their own unique personality, making the character’s adventures seem more vast and diverse.

The colour schemes and designs for the characters are all tailored towards their personality and style. For example, Mabel’s turtleneck changes multiple times throughout the series to show to her excitable and imaginative personality. The jumpers sometimes have various lights and added ornaments on them as a humourous point, but still fitting to her bubbly behaviour. In contrast, her twin brother wears nothing but the same clothes throughout most of the series as a way of representing his constant curiosity to everything around him.

The shading in most of the common, full-body shots are mostly flat. However, when it comes to close-ups or dramatic scenes, then cell shading is used to create a more dimensional appearance to the characters and, in some cases when the lighting is harsh or if the time of day is specific, it can add to the mood and expressions of their faces.

gravity_falls_lighting

Gravity Falls © Alex Hirsch, Disney Television Animation

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.

 

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).

3D Animated Game Trailer Moodboard and Idea Development

3D, 3D Animation, 3D Design, Animation, design, Research, U8_U52

For my 3D animated trailer project, I decided to create a character based game trailer for a game that I’ve had in mind for a long time. I’ve created moodboards and researched many existing game trailers in seek of inspiration and ideas to help develop my trailer.

DSC00451

The first sketch I ever drew of Lightbulb Girl which eventually became the basis for my character Lumi.

The idea for my game stemmed from a drawing that I made last year of a character called ‘Lightbulb Girl’. She was named that mainly because of the light bulbs on her head. This design came into mind after I discovered a popular art trend online for ‘object-head characters’ – humanoid characters who had their heads replaced with objects, commonly electronic. I was in Amsterdam at the time when I drew Lightbulb Girl, and as I was visiting the various art exhibitions there I noticed a lot of modern exhibits where utilising light and digital displays. I saw some really interesting shapes and forms not just at museums, but at cafés and shops too. Twisting wires and huge light bulbs and occasionally the odd ceiling fan. These were the main elements I took to create Lightbulb Girl.

What inspired me to turn ‘Lightbulb Girl’ – the character – into ‘Lumi Lightbringer’ – the character with a game – was the simple, singular idea of her ceiling fan-inspired propeller skirt. I thought it would be great fun in a game as a flying element! So with that in mind, I developed a world around her which could be used for a game.

Development was going fine for the most part, but I was lacking a certain mood, a tone. Without a tone to go by, I couldn’t come up with a fitting colour scheme for Lumi and everything halted because of that. So I decided to create a mood board to help brings things together. I took the character designs and minimalism from the game Journey and the atmosphere and lighting from the game Ori and The Blind Forest. Thrown in with some electronics and light inspired objects, interesting geometric forms and another ceiling fan (for good measure,) I eventually watered down the main elements that help inspired my animation.

moodboard

My moodboard.

I eventually settled on an orange and blue colour scheme for the entire project. I liked how the character in Journey contrasted really well against the environment, and also the lighting in Ori and The Blind Forest so I tried to emulate that contrast with this colour scheme. The majority of Lumi is coloured in rather plain, muted colours except for her propeller skirt and visors which are neon orange. The environment that she interacts in is all blue, so she really stands out nicely.

Interactive Media App Authoring

app design, Research, U62_U63, User Interface Design

Authoring in the context of digital and interactive media is a term used to describe the creation process of designing, creating and composing a usable interface for devices. Whether it be web pages, mobile apps, games or presentations – any form of media format that is capable of interactive elements such as sound, buttons, videos, animation and the like.

Authoring mobile apps is similar to that of web app development, rooting itself in more traditional software development. Whilst web app design is built around web pages, mobile app design is often written to cater for the mobile phone format and takes advantage of it’s features (such as the touchscreen function on smart phones). For example, a racing game app might be written to take advantage of an iPhone’s accelerometer (the tilt and orientation of the screen).

Applications can integrate a wide variety of interactive components to enhance it’s user experience. The user interface is commonly abundant with scripting for events, buttons, effects, hotspots (rollovers), timelines and slideshows etc. Of course when designing and developing apps, there are limitations in terms of memory, download time, file formatting and plug-in enhancements. As complex as you can make an app, it’s crucial to build it around the target media’s limitations in order for it to function at it’s best without exceeding the capabilities of the device.

There are many app development software that allow designers and programmers to create their apps with. In this case, I am using a variety of different programs to build my mobile app on. I have created the assets in Photoshop and Illustrator and am planning on assembling the interactive parts in Game Salad. Other app developers are part of a company and work on various app development projects for clients. Groups like Nodes have worked for many big companies such as Samsung, O2 and BMW.

Noir Film Trailer Analysis – The Third Man

Editing, Film, Film Studies, Film Trailer, Neo Noir, Research, U66, U_5

The Third Man is regarded as one of the many classics of Film Noir. It was directed by Carol Reed and written by Graham Greene and stars Joseph Cotton, Alida Valli, Trevor Howard and Orson Welles. The music score was composed by Anton Karas and the cinematography was done by Robert Krasker. Originally release on August 31st, 1949, the film was noted for it’s murder mystery and pained romance riddled with suspense, as well as it’s iconic Noir cinematography of Vienna.

The original trailer was very much styled to it’s time. The early 1950s way of film and television is highly contrasting to today’s way of presentation. For starters, the use of explicit narration in the form of both voice (the narrator) and text (the taglines) are consistent throughout the original trailer. This was common with many films at the time, as it gave the viewer immediate context and information on the film and helped bring attention to the characters. The trailer’s syntax and layout is also vastly different from today’s modern form. The title of the film is introduced at the start, as well as some big names and credits. It’s a more orderly and traditional style of arrangement that’s takes the viewer on quite a chronological walkthrough for most of the first half. Later on, the trailer begins to cut more frequently and the order of storytelling is shifted around a lot more in order to build up excitement and curiosity in the viewer, much like today’s film trailers.

The trailer’s audio is also consistent throughout. There is only one track used, almost as if to try and set the tone for the film. The suitability of the track is up to debate – on the one hand, it’s relatively charming and decadent arrangement may seem fitting for the time it was being shown in, but perhaps not truly reflective of the film’s more dark moods and tone thus could be believed to be unfitting or misleading. On the other hand, it could be seen as purposefully misleading and contrasting to the darker side in favour of the charm and charisma that the leads carry.

Many graphics are used in the 1949 film trailer and at times, it almost seem to become dependent on them in capturing the style and aesthetic of the feature to the audience. The iconic ‘Third Man’ graphic is used at the beginning of the trailer as well as at the end of the trailer where it’s animated in. The heavy use of graphics compared to today’s films is definitely influenced by the fashion of trailers at the time – notably so. The tagline text are also placed under a what seems to be a mandolin graphic, quite fitting for the film’s setting and a very 1950s thing to do.

The Third Man also recently had a 4K restoration adaptation of it – and there’s a new trailer too that has been released in 2015. What’s fascinating, is the stark contrast in presentation compared to it’s 1949 predecessor. Baring in mind that the trailer itself is aware that it’s a restoration of a classic Noir film, the way it displays itself has clearly been altered to appeal to a more present-day audience. For starters, the trailer has taken out many of the old characteristics of ’50s trailers to replace with more current trends.

There is no voice-over narrator giving exposition. Instead, the trailer just relies on the audio directly from the film footage. The only separate narration that is present is through some very short, sans-serif text in white that is either against a plain black background, or skewed at a perspective to match the shot that’s showing almost as a sort of homage to the Noir cinematography.

There are many reasons why the editors have opted for this kind of approach. The 2015 style of trailers have long evolved from the 1950s – everything has become much more minimalist and compressed in favour of subtly. Times and tastes have changed vastly, and the urge for simplicity and shortness has been cultivated from life’s much faster pacing. People demand more saturated content and consider decorations in things like extra graphics and long narration to be dawdling and off-putting. Hence why the new trailer has cut-down the timing on things like credits and on-screen text to only brief appearances. It allows more focus on the film itself and doesn’t come across as a potential waste of time in the audience’s mind.

The cuts and edits of the film’s narrative is more extreme too. Again, in favour of enthralling the audience into a guessing game of what the film’s story exactly is, keeping them on their toes throughout. The title of the film is shown at the end rather than the beginning as a sort of finale reveal as to which film it is. Although, hiding this information could also be because the viewers are expected to know what Film Noir it is just from the footage at the start too.

The audio is also wildly reduced to almost nothing but occasional cues at the beginning as a way of leading the viewers in. The lack of audio makes the viewers question more on what it is they’re seeing until the familiar track of the original 1949 trailer comes back for it’s reprise.