Wednesday, 28 February 2007

studio aka & the World of Advertising

Following links up on web pages can lead to all sorts of untold riches. Marc Craste’s work for studio aka leads such to rare treats as the BBC2 animations emanating from the numeral 2. Alongside the Channel 4 electric pylons forming the rival numeral 4, this is one of the joys of television. There are other treats, Guinness (Bob Latimer), Eurostar (Mic Graves), Elastoplast (Mic Graves, again), BT (ditto), Hovis (Grant Orchard), Dyson (Philip Hunt), MTV Asia (Ben Bocquelet) or, my joint favourites, Children First (Marc Craste) and, because the music complements the animation so well, Onken (Heidi Wittlinger). These downloadable quicktime movies are clever pieces of commercial animation and there are all sorts of the nation’s greatest companies represented here. The client list reads like the top 100 companies. For goodness sake, it even has BBC Bitesize. (Marc Craste again!) Were I to be talented in art and 80 years younger this is the career I would aspire to – oh, and I’d have to be clever toq. Of course we also have clever students. I always felt that Stephanie Cleeves’ Controlled Test short, Fred’s First Flight, could have been used by Robin Hood Airport or suchlike, just add a logo or two. In the meantime you can even download studio aka’s flashy screensaver with the hint of interactivity or read an interesting synopsis of the brief plus technical detail such as this for Guinness. Advertising is such a ripe area for exploration. I am quite determined to base a unit of work on it, perhaps replacing “Change” or “Satire” for the current and incoming year 10. You heard it here first.

Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Ke Jiang & Robots

Our existing Movie of the Week 8 is by Sara Pocock and Ke Jiang. Following the link to Je's own website ( reveals the two working closely together on their animation work. There are several short animations here. His Elephant in Wonderland is a loop, a procession of liquid animals and he has a sweet robot sitting on a bench, but this quickly turns into a kung fu extravaganza as a young female turns the tables on her attackers. His Bird and Girl is an interesting piece where the girl kills the bird with a catapult but then gets pulled into an odd world of robots and game-play. His Smoker Not for Kids is a gruesome short, though I can see the need for hard-hitting shorts like this given the subject matter. The site also has several links to Je's other work, including interactive animations.
The Controlled Test dominates our students in year 11 at this time. They have two choices. One is "Persian Carpet", the other " Mobius Strip". They have fourteen hours to complete the animation. This is not long given that ideas go astray, mistakes are made, technical problems manifest themselves. I like the approach adopted by Jonathan Scott and Anthony Smith, with their free moving style. This is time-consuming to do, relying on frame-by-frame animation, but very effective. From my 11 3 group , Rick Harris' Big Dipper, Rory Bland's Toy Train, Gareth Hustler's Mammoth and the innovative Mark Bennicke's Asteroid are all worth a look.

Sunday, 25 February 2007

Ballyvaughan Story

I have just written up our eighth movie of the week for this year and Sara Pocock's story of the Irish troubles of the early part of the 20th century is an excellent choice I think. I'll have to remember to recommend it to our History department. Ballyvaughan Story is such a good movie. There is no black and white depiction of the English as being total thugs and murderers. Crimes were committed by both sides. It was wonderful watching the Irish rugby team play England for the first time at Croke Park on Saturday and observe how respectful the home crowd were to "God Save the Queen". We were rightly thrashed though, with the Irish being far superior in everything. Saturday gave us hope for the future, though not necessarily for English rugby. There's a great account of the match from the International Herald Tribune:
And back to Sara Pocock. Her website has some lovely artwork besides her varied animations. I would recommend her short Humpy Dumpty. It's made using the 3D software, Maya, which has provoked many admiring comments from our students.

Thursday, 22 February 2007

Sherlock Holmes & Uses of Shade

Very often our animations are rather two-dimensional. Flash lends itself to this at its most basic level. However our better students add elements of shade to give a depth to their work. Filters and liberal use of alpha, both excellent tools in the Flash armoury, allow something more than basic blocks of solid colour. Yesterday in Animation Club Peter Lawson from Year 9 handed in a short scene, Sherlock, that illustrates this perfectly. The sun casts shadows on all around it. Thus the chimney, gable wall and telegraph pole are sectioned by different shades giving a 3D effect and a far richer texture. Sherlock Holmes’ face too is broken up into three shades. Excellent work, Peter.

Steven Szollosi from Year 10 recommends the work of Jason Engle working presently in Florida. Steven likes the mystical nature of the art. I like the vampire!

Monday, 19 February 2007

Ishu Patel & Bead Game

Our Film of the Week 5 was the excellent “The Owl Who Married a Goose” by Caroline Leaf from 1974. It showed the obvious really that animators were working innovatively before the internet and the availability of cheap software allowed us all to become involved. I’ve returned to the National Film Board of Canada’s superb website to see some more of their imaginative films. Ishu Patel’s “Bead Game” produced in 1977 is one that I think warrants a plug, or bead. It starts off with a simple bead that splits into two, like cells. The divisions continue until they form animals, ever more sophisticated but each more lethal than the next. These devour the other and in turn are devoured. The animals become men and inevitably, given our invention of the atom bomb, the destruction becomes all the more great. With a background sound of simple percussion this superficially simple but relentless animation really impresses me and should act as a model for our students.

Saturday, 17 February 2007

Joanna Davidovich & Juxtaposer

Too many of the flash animations on websites are by men and our school classes mirror this with the girls very much in a minority, albeit a talented minority. Here's a treat (with a movie produced in 2005 although I've just seen it) by Joanna Davidovich from Atlanta Georgia.
A girl sitting on a bench is pretty lonely until she meets a cat. The meeting transforms her life.

Wednesday, 14 February 2007

Valentine's Day Animations

Now we do Halloween and Christmas but Valentine's Day is not what we do. Maybe we should. I'll trial it next year for our Animation Club. For now try this neat effect with 3D pulsating hearts from Amara Software:

Saturday, 10 February 2007

Hans Anderson

Time for my granddaughter and after story time I realise Flash can be used for all sorts of interactive games. Now I know what follows is for young children but the two of us liked it. The Emperor needs dressing up and you can do it here. Or you can discover the real princess. Hans Anderson's fairy tales provide a rich source of ideas for animation and art. Try this illustration from the original first edition by Edmund Dulac showing the princess attempting to sleep through the dreadful discomfort of the pea under the mattress (or in this case mattresses.) This latter link is to the colossal blog and resource for The International Animated Film Society to which I shall be returning at another date. If you want to read one of the stories,"The Little Matchgirl", and have a funny little wizard appear on your desktop in a disconcerting fashion click here.

Friday, 9 February 2007

Marc Craste & Sudoku

You may have seen the marvellous animation currently appearing on television to advertise Lloyds TSB. It features a train journey through life for its characters. The creator is Marc Craste whose 2003 animation “JoJo in the Stars” won a BAFTA in 2004 - the link to this by the way is for a 56 second clip of this atmospheric movie. But it is in commercials with his company Studio aka that he excels and here is another beauty, “The Big Win”, produced for Camelot and Lotto. I know Marc is producing commercials but the bank and lottery have financed such happy, feel-good movies. Both are delights. One of these is going to be Movie of the Week. You might also enjoy the short and rather violent Pizza Sangre or view the rather dark video he made 'Will The Summer Make Good For All Of Our Sins' for Icelandic band, Múm.

I don’t want to neglect Year 10 who are beginning to get started on their Change animations. Two scenes plucked almost at random: Patrick McArthur’s rainforest and Michael Bramhald’s dinosaurs.

Sudoku puzzles absorb lots of my free time. There surely can't be anyone left who does not know that you use logic to work out where the numbers 1-9 are situated in various lines or grids. The best site is Orangeminds Sudoku and it produces the clearest set of rules: "Sudoku is a simple puzzle game where you're given a partially filled 9x9 grid. To complete the puzzle you must fill in the grid so that there is a single instance of the digits 1-9 on each row, column and in each 3x3 subregion." Never done one before? Don't panic and believe that you're no good at maths and therefore Sudoku is not for you. Oh, and the site has some seriously scary fast times recorded. Is there any of you out there who can register a record time?

Should you choose to view one of our animations why not try Joe North's “No More Hiroshimas” , one of the finest animations produced in the school.

Meanwhile it’s half term and time for Fayrer.

Thursday, 8 February 2007

From Old Server

The Controlled Test is producing some interesting results. I’ll post scenes as I have time (and Mrs Bidmead returns!) First four then: Matthew Howard and his growing tree, Mark Bennicke’s volcano, Sebastian Wasilewski’s nowhere, and Josh Barham’s man. From my other year 11 group try Adam Fadra’s bridge or Sam Eve’s carpet rides or Callum Credland’s big car or Holly Thomson’s window. These are just incomplete scenes from their developing exam movies and we hope the final product will match the promise.

Chris Appelhans' artwork has more than a touch of fantasy about it at times – look at his concept paintings 1, 2 and 3 for example. His website is a source of very varied drawings and paintings. I discovered his animation about Superman and have made it our 2007 Movie of the Week 6 but in the blog it's better to dwell on his other work. He has that wonderfully crisp drawing ability that only the finest artists possess, together with the imagination to capture yours. A wonderfully evocative drawing of the huge family lined up on their front stoop, “Dustbowl”, with the mother clutching a chicken and the father a scythe, led me to a very moving series of photographs in memory of his grandfather. It is a warm tribute.

In assembly today I reflected on Friday's concert, a wonderful morning as many of us watched and listened to the Watoto Children’s Choir from Uganda. We were all caught up by their sheer energy and enthusiasm, not to mention talent. I was sufficiently motivated enough to purchase two CDs so they must have been good. It’s easy to forget these children have suffered war, hunger, and the loss of their parents through Aids. There is a need for us in the richer world to help. I believe the school will support their charity. For now enjoy the music.
There is a slideshow of this and their previous tours. Wouldn’t it be nice to welcome them back here at South Axholme.

We have a visitor today from Birmingham – Archbishop Ilsley Catholic Technology College. David Irish teaches art and is considering introducing animation to his school. “It’s been a great experience looking around your school and I have not only been impressed with the quality of animation but the interest in the creative process, having witnessed the development of the storylines. Now all I have to do is teach myself the fundamentals of animation as I am used to charcoal and paint. On a final note, all of you including the staff and pupils have made me feel most welcome and the school dinners are quite good as well, once again thanks to everyone – Mr Irish.”

I'm going to dwell on an object of desire I actually own. Now my students would doubtless point to the iPod as their object of acoustic desire but I much prefer my Pure Evoke 3 DAB radio. I know if I wore it in my top pocket I would fall over but relaxing in my armchair listening once again to a recording made at the touch of a switch to England hammer the Scots at rugby was sheer heaven. And speaking of rugby you can download a podcast of "The Times" rugby writers, including Jonny Wilkinson, discussing the Six Nations or you can read about it here. You simply can't get too much of a good thing.
Audio / Video-Podcasts-Sport-TimesOnline

I used love American comic books as a child and superheroes were the inhabitants of that world. You will have heard of Superman and Batman because they have been taken up by Hollywood and made into movies. But these superheroes go back to before the Second World War. The first masked hero I know of is The Phantom from 1936 but my particular favourite was Green Lantern. He wore a power ring of unlimited power, well unlimited that is aside from his own imagination. The story gets more complicated than this because there were other heroes who had power rings. Read the incredibly complicated Wilkipedia article about the Guardians of the Universe for example. I’m far too sophisticated to admit I like the stories now but the artwork is supreme.

Flash-based websites can be spectacular and here is one from a small company in Hungary that’s better than most. Future Films is based in Budapest and its site has the wow factor, particularly in full screen mode. Compare their old site with the new to appreciate the advances the web designers have made. This is an impressive shop window for their products. Liam Oades recommends these animations - and The first highlights the difficulty of finding a plumber nowadays; the second has Death going about his business accompanied by a cat. Neither qualify for “Movie of the Week” but they are fun.

When I was a boy I purchased on impulse a book about Pablo Picasso’s paintings – cheap, in a sale, naturally. It changed my views on art. Now sometimes I still think that modern artists can’t draw. Not in Picasso’s case anyway. Look at “Françoise Gilot with Claude and Paloma” (1951) for instance. You might think, “My dog could draw like that.” You would be wrong. Now look at “Pierrot” (1918) with its wonderful colours or the very stylised “Woman with a Crow” (1904). Impressed? Examine his “Guernica” produced in 1937 during the Spanish Civil War. Guernica was a beautiful but undefended Basque town bombed by the Nazis and completely destroyed. Another painting, “A Woman in Tears” depicts the tragedy in a different form. Olga’s Gallery, by the way, is a wonderful resource.

Searching the web for an animation for our next movie of the week I came upon the work of Matthew Irvine, currently working for Nokia but recently a student at the Royal College of Art. His animation work is interesting enough but in 2003 he was working towards his PGCE at Oxted School in Surrey. The results of his work there is posted on his site Year 8 Pixel Portrait Project. Over four pages he develops the project from chalk and charcoal to animated images of his year 8 pupils.

Bill Bryson is my favourite writer of non-fiction because he is so funny. If you wish a gentle introduction to his work in animated form try the “Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid”. My favourite book by him is
Notes from a Small Island” in which he gives an American visitor’s guide to Britain: "Suddenly, in the space of a moment, I realized what it was that I loved about Britain--which is to say, all of it.” You can visit his home page here.

This year we introduced the new course on satire. This involves the study of cartoons and we feature work of Peter Brookes of “The Times”. There are other cartoonists however. Look at the work of Steve Bell for instance in “The Guardian”. There’s a very funny cartoon combining the recent shipwreck and John Reid’s prowess at the Home Office. Reid is ready to go water-skiing and his gear is attached to the beached container ship.

I hear that Mr Barlow is considering producing a podcast to help in revising the PE syllabus. Now how impressive is that! I would be more impressed if he does it to music. In the meantime one of the my favourite sites for free podcasts is “The Times” although you will have to download them from home due to our school restrictions on mp3 downloads. If you are really keen you can listen to Tony Blair interview a variety of people from Number 10 Downing Street. Currently he has posted his discussions with Eddie Izzard, Seb Coe, Chris Evans and, one of my favourite writers, Bill Bryson – see above.

This is the first entry in what will become an occasional blog to highlight art and suchlike that may be of interest for our animation students. Should my students recommend a site to me I may just post it. My favourite animation feature film of recent years was “Toy Story” but I also enjoyed “The Incredibles”. The animation studio producing these is Pixar. We are all familiar with their major works but they also produce shorter animations too and there is a link on their website. Try The Incredible Adventures of Andre and Walter B. It is only a trailer but just look at the opening with the sun rising over the forest with trees in gold and green.