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Thursday, 31 May 2007

Coca-Cola Animated Commercials & Till Nowak and Aidan Gibbons

I should watch tv more. I had no idea just how many good animation commercials have been created for this sugared drink. However they are very good. For example I think this one is current and shows just what occurs when the man rolls his coin into the vending machine. I love it when an animator creates a busy alternative world. It's what animation is all about. However I also like the quirky humour of goal. But most of all I think I like the Christmas Party Coca Cola Advert. With the cute polar bears. Coca-Cola has been removed from our school canteen but the legend lives on.
I have had two marvellous interviews sent to me in the last two days: Till Nowak and Aidan Gibbons. Both have produced animations that simply take the breath away. Till's "Delivery" was spectacular beyond belief and Aidan's "The Piano" was so sad and moving. They are both remarkably honest in their responses. I will post both in the next day or so. Thanks to them. Responding to an interview takes up their valuable time and we are so grateful.

Tuesday, 29 May 2007

Steven Page "The Vanity Project"

The animation for Steven Plate's track "Wilted Rose" from his The Vanity Project is a tale of a chick who finds all the farm animals in the factory farm are being slaughtered. Can he/she do anything to save the situation? Well, there's some gore and some salvation in a professionally crafted piece by the Canadian Plates Animation (http://www.platesanimation.com/) You may recognise Steven from the band Barenaked Ladies.

Monday, 28 May 2007

"A Rhythm of Lines", Tae Joon Park "The Longest Date"& Stephanie Sim "The Story Tree"

The advertising agency, Bartle Bogle Hegarty has a new commercial for the Audi A5. It takes the form of an animated swirl of lines that eventually form the outline of the car. The classical piano music and the soft blues and greys of the lines flow along like some glorious vapour trail in the skies, with the "camera" turning and twisting and the background changing to cream and light purple. You could go Visit4info for the full download although you have to register and pay; alternatively go to YouTube to view it - as with so many of the videos nowadays. Alternatively enjoy this product of the Vancouver Film School, “The Longest Date”, as a wonderful soldier has a mission in the cinema with his girlfriend that is more than a match for him. Or you may prefer "The Story Tree" by Stephanie Sim. This won the award for "Best Classical or Stop Motion Animation" at Awards for the Electronic and Animated Arts (CAEAA), for 2006.Stephanie's short animation has a boy swinging on a tree in which magic is being created.

Sunday, 27 May 2007

Matt Abbiss "Invasion"

Invasion by Matt Abbiss is featured via the link to Channel 4's Mesh series of films made in 2005. It is about an invasion of an island by a solitary sailor whose arrival is greeted in a rather civilised fashion by the native. The invasion does not go well! The black and white animation is sketched out freehand and accompanied by some very English accents. The following link leads to Matt's site though I could not get past a funny bearded guy who performs to camera. (http://www.abbiss.net/) The second link is to Matt's drawings which I find rather stylish.
(http://bugpowder.com/abbiss/co1/co01.html)

Saturday, 26 May 2007

Hermes Mangialardo "Mary's Day"

A day or so ago I decided to add the countries of origin as labels for the animations appearing here. There are so many omissions. For example in class I show lots of animations from Spain or Russia. So I intend to rectify the situation. I've no time now to do this but here is a day in the life of an ordinary Italian housewife, soldier, peace activist, athlete, mother and husband: Mary’s Day. I love the bold summer colours, something that doesn't come naturally to mind given our British climate. It's another by Hermes Mangialardo.

Friday, 25 May 2007

Bill Plympton "Don't Download This Song" & Till Nowak

Here is a warning to all those who illegally download songs from the internet. The satirical songwriter and artist Weird Al Yankovic produces a quite gruesome song, "Don't Download This Song" in the style of an awful lot of dreadfully repetitious charity songs. Of course you can download the music quite freely if you are so minded at the artist’s myspace page. I admire the lyrics and wit on display here but don't have to enjoy the music. Enough of that. The link is to an excellent video by Bill Plympton that accompanies the song. Bill Plympton is well known with a track record in various forms of film-making; here he has a clever cartoon style that shows the lengths the music industry will go to in order to track you down, imprison you, fire bullets, tanks shells, blow you up, and so on - if you download their music through file-sharing sites. It is funny, imaginative and the work of a very talented cartoonist and wit.
Till Nowak sent me a copy of his newly (and beautifully) packaged DVD of Delivery. It is 40 minutes in length, ridiculously cheap at less than £10 including postage, and one of the best teaching resources it is possible to buy. In those 40 minutes it teaches more about the craft of 3d animation than anything else I have seen or read. Buy it.
Finally, Emily Squires from Stanground College in Peterborough has been in contact with me about our animations course. The mathematics department of which she is a member has created superb, professional quality Flash resources. Look particularly at the starters and puzzles: http://www.school-portal.co.uk/GroupHomepage.asp?GroupID=61015.

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Darren Price “Potapych, The Bear Who Loved Vodka”

“Potapych, The Bear Who Loved Vodka” has just won the “Best 3-D Professional Animation” at the 2007 Red Stick International Animation Festival based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It is certainly professional and was shown on our own Channel 4 recently. It tells the story of a Russian bear who likes the taste of vodka so much he launches himself on a non-stop partying binge. Of course, being a school site we most certainly do not advocate alcohol and Darren Price's movie naturally enough demonstrates the dangers of alcoholism without ever taking itself or the subject too seriously. A team was assembled to make the movie and an excellent account of the process is available via the link (Studio Daily Animation Commentary: Darren Price on Drunken Bears and Cinematic Bunnies). Darren although from Australia works in London as head of 3D at Nexus Productions about which I posted recently. Interesting to know he has been involved in their Honda commercial for Smith & Foulkes, a campaign that persuaded me to spend some money a while back. However I also very much like this for the Transport Express Régional in which he features rather a lot of very fast cheetahs. Darren has talent in abundance.

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Joris Clerté "Ce que je suis" et “A tort ou a raison”

A popular choice as movie of the week was Joris Clerté’s "Ce que je suis", a musical video for the French band “Holden”. Joris worked with Philippe Massonnet and Emmanuel Linderer. Sometimes the nationality of the creators shines through, albeit the music is a bit of a give away! Here it is not only the images of French life and landscape but something of "la joie de vivre"; no it's hardly that but I do know the phrase. The girl in the animation seems to be having a hard time of it: C'est une période de crise. Everyone she meets is cast under her own little dark cloud. Still she perseveres and the result is an utterly charming movie to complement a charming song. Another of Joris’ music videos is “A tort ou a raison”, again a charmer for another French band “Prudence”.

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

New Year 10/11 Course - TV Commercial

From half term we commence a new animation and back-up written work. The examination board AQA stipulates that we cover "Past and Present". Our freedom is to choose a precise subject that fits into the overall theme. Therefore this year our students will produce a television commercial for a real or imagined product. There will be five pieces of written coursework to complete. These all cover the theme of past and present. Further details will be posted on our website but for now the five animations are:
  1. "The Piano" - Aidan Gibbons (“New Movie of the Week 22”)
  2. "From Darkness" - Norah Twomey (“Movie of the Week” (32))
  3. “The Incredible Journey” - Marc Craste (“New Movie of the Week 7”)
  4. "Little Red Plane" - Joey Jones & Wira Winata (Animation Blog 05 April 2007)
  5. "Delivery" - Till Novak (“Movie of the Week” (16))

Luckily four of the five animators have agreed to be interviewed by us and their replies will furnish us with lots of extra information. We are also contacting the fifth, Marc Craste, to see if he will participate. Additionally we will also be examining commercials from all around the globe to provide inspiration for our own projects. Deadline for completion is January 3rd 2008.

Monday, 21 May 2007

Emile Simon & Nobrain

A source of exhilarating work is that of the Paris based agency Cosa. I was encouraged to their site by two animated songs for Emile Simon produced by the terrifically talented group of French animators Nobrain. My particular favourite is "Flowers" in which our naif tries to buy a group of undesirables a bunch of flowers. Undesirables? Well they look like monsters to me. All your favourites are there - see how many you can spot. Alternatively you can view Emile herself singing away as she is gradually enveloped by roots and branches that snake around like pythons, "Fleur de saison" . There is much to see and hear at Cosa, Nobrain and indeed www.emiliesimon.com. I shall be returning later to the first of these.
In the meantime I was delighted that Cameron Ivey-Drayton received the nod of approval for an intended interview with the creators of the dynamic 'A Brand New Psycho', Davide Saraceno and Davide Ragona from http://www.say-bye-to-your-silly-planet.com/. Cameron has been nagging me for weeks about this interview. Good to see enthusiasm and I shall see if he can channel that into good questions for this Italian studio. Also this afternoon we were delighted to hear that Liam Oades was successful in obtaining an interview with Aidan Gibbons whose "The Piano" is our current “Movie of the Week”.

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Hermes Mangialardo "Blow"

It's about time I suggested a Flash movie. The Italian Hermes Mangialardo's "Blow" is a striking music video drawn in black and white, with a towering giant raging at life and the world in general. I've actually read different summaries of what it all means but I'm not sure I understand them. Whatever, I like the lead singer's strong vocal (and strong lyrics!) from the band Add N To (X) (http://www.addntox.com/) with its pounding rhythm, complemented by the strong imagery from Hermes. You can view this and his other excellent work at Hermes' site http://www.h-e-m.it/. "Victims" for example is very short but nonetheless a hard hitting reminder of the victims of war with photographs of what I imagine are those murdered in Cambodia; whilst Words World features the Italian band Archivio and a characteristically bold and again black and white presentation of words and letters.

Saturday, 19 May 2007

Aidan Gibbons "The Piano"

Sometimes an animation or indeed film appears that is so extraordinarily good that it pales everything else at the time. Aidan Gibbons' "The Piano" is one such. Sometimes an idea seems so incredibly simple and yet is so beautifully realised that it renders the idea a thing of genius. Aidan's movie has been distributed to primary and secondary schools in the UK, though I confess it never reached me! It has rightly won awards. The theme is one of flashbacks to an old man's life delivered as he plays exquisitely on the piano. The transition through the man's life was imaginatively achieved and intensely moving. I showed it to my class yesterday afternoon and they too were spellbound. Aidan produced the movie during his second year at the University of Hertfordshire. He has chosen the music well. It is an evocative piece by Yann Tiersen, 'Une comptine d'un autre ete', which was also part of the score for a favourite French film, “Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain” (“Amélie”). One of my students is attempting to obtain an interview with Aidan who, by the way, has produced some excellent professional work, notably a striking piece for Johnny Walker. "The Piano" is obtainable through any number of internet links but the best quality is at his website: http://www.aidangibbons.com/

Friday, 18 May 2007

Hurt's "Rapture", Jeff Timmins & Justin Lee

Another music video post today. This time it is Hurt's Rapture, a music video from Coffee Cup Studios in Toronto. The animation is spectacular enough but what makes it particularly interesting for me is the information about the process of its creation available through two blogs: Jeff Timmins (http://goutwort.blogspot.com/) and Justin Lee (http://park-box.blogspot.com/2006/05/rapture.html). Here are two superbly talented professionals at work. One of Jeff Timmins' current projects is particularly interesting and one I will track as it progresses. It is a fable about a child cancer victim; you can read about it in his March 6th post - The Long Journey Home. The drawings for it are very distinctive. Coffee Cup by the way has some amazing work on their treasure-trove of a website including this piece for Film on Four and this stirring introduction to the Toronto Short Film Festival. This latter piece will provide a model for our own animated commercials due to commence in two weeks' time.

Thursday, 17 May 2007

Sporting Squares and Mark Craste's "Bag of Smiles" wins Golden Statue at Clio Awards

Here is a treat I think is going to become a classic or, to be more exact, classics. Studio Aka has created a series of hilarious animated shorts for QOOBtv. Grant Orchard uses simple squares to create works of art, often viewed from different perspectives. For example we look down on a greyhound stadium, see the squares assemble for the start and chase the grey square that happens to be the hare; the race then turns into a warzone. The animations are deceptively simple. Go and enjoy the fun.
Congratulations to one of our favourite Studio Aka directors, Mark Craste, and his lovely commercial for "The National Lottery". "Bag of Smiles" was always going to be rewarded. View it here. You can see the other winners at the Clip Awards site.
Do enjoy our latest movie to be placed on the school site, another by Carl Drayton whose Big Brother is our featured animation of the week. It is quite compelling. I wrote in the website preamble that it is about our surveillance society, which it is, but it also concerns itself with population growth. If all this sounds a bit heavy it isn't. I use the word "compelling" to encapsulate the vibrancy of it all.

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

"Versus" by François Caffiaux, Romain Noel and Thomas Salas

"Versus" directed by François Caffiaux, Romain Noel and Thomas Salas is about two samurai clans fighting for a little island in the middle of their own rather isolated islands. Violence is so easy to achieve in animation. Any fool can get red to flood onto the stage. However an animation as inventive as this is a different matter. The action is imaginative and funny. In the end of course the key issue is whether or not there is a point to the movie. As the two dramatically reduced sides confront each other at the end over a heap of bodies that is not only collapsing their fought for island but endangering their original home island, most viewers can get the point about pointless warfare. It can be viewed at the Britfilm festival site through the following link “Versus”.

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Nexus Productions Ltd

Nexus Productions is a London based company that has a collection of highly talented directors only some of whose work I have been able to sample. However for what it’s worth here’s the results of a quick trawl through their website. Driving one of their machines myself I had to look at the commercial for Honda set on a factory conveyor belt. The workers are stamping out the word “OK” when the manager sneezes and the words change. OK is clearly not good enough. Satoshi Tomioka’s animated commercial is “Excellent” though that’s not the word. Johanna Andersson’s plug for MTV is a bootcamp with the familiar chant and her catchy trailer for Big Brother 2006 is set funnily enough on a house with rather invasive binoculars. My favourite however is the classic Jim le Fevre's commercial for Quality English Beef (and Lamb) which has “my dear old thing” Henry Blofeld commentating as Ian Botham and Allan Lamb are attempting to eat their dinner as a streaker invades their conservatory. A word too for the quality of the site as unlike some studios I won’t mention Nexus allow free access to their work and their site is a joy to navigate.

Sunday, 13 May 2007

"Gnaritas Monstrum" by Seth Kendall

The 2007 West Virginia Flash Festival was judged some two weeks ago and it is interesting to view some of their winning entries. For instance Brandon Cornwall won the First place “Dramatic Short” with a piece about the Middle East. It has an imaginative opening and some good technical effects, though essentially it is simply produced. I liked the rounded style of the cities and the background sky, which has a lovely watercolour blue and white. I’m not sure about blobs with eyes though for the various figures shooting at each other. I actually preferred the runner-up, Ashley Williams with her “Daddy’s Girl”. It was a touching tribute to her father. The narration, music and singing were done by her friend, Megan Edison. Jessica Hill from Millersville University has a mini car touring the sights of London. It won the “Comedy Short” and $100 though in truth it had rather too many traced bitmaps for my total liking. Still it’s obvious Jessica had been sight-seeing to Stonehenge, Windsor and the like. Seth Kendall from Drexel University won best in festival with Gnaritas Monstrum, a judgement I entirely agree with. It was original and is well in advance of any other movie in the festival. Drawn in black and white silhouettes it has a fluidity to it. Two children suffer a calamity from which a solitary adult emerges. Just maybe one child has a learning experience from which a chastened adult emerges. I was so impressed it will become our next "Movie of the Week". It’s a shame they don’t have an international section because I would like to enter some of our own work. Virginia is a wonderful place as many of our students, past and present, can testify. You can see all the winners here - 2007 West Virginia Flash Animation Festival.

Saturday, 12 May 2007

"Angle Mort" by Jordan Cirera, Bérenger Dalle-Cort and Pascal Han--Kwan

It is a wet and miserable day so it is time for a ghost story. A French one. It is a wet night and a mad eyed traveller enters a bar. The room is almost empty but there is always the barman and the solitary drinker at the counter to listen to his tale of the ghostly girl he gives a lift to. Maybe the driver should have listened to the girl's plea not to travel to the crossroads. And who is the figure lurking in the shadows of the bar behind the smoke? If you are unable to master the French there are subtitles. Angle Mort was produced by Jordan Cirera, Bérenger Dalle-Cort and Pascal Han--Kwan for their 3D examinations and took 3 months in pre-production and 5 months for production. Well it was worth it because the animation and atmosphere are fantastic, and even if the story is a little hackneyed so are many horror films, that being their attraction. Lovely. Their website has information and screenshots. I have seen quite a few French animations from students lately and the standard is superb.
Joanna Davidovich contacted me yesterday to say that she had just completed her animation for "Touch Me I'm Karen Taylor" that will be airing soon on our own BBC. Joanna was very busy on the commission when she allowed us to interview her a while back so she deserves success. Karen Taylor is an up and coming comic talent here in the UK after her appearances in ITV's hit comedy "The Sketch Show". You can see and listen here to Karen. It is quite a coup for Joanna to be selected.

Thursday, 10 May 2007

David Bokser

This is the eighth in our series of interviews with those animators whose work has particularly appealed to our students here at South Axholme. Each interview is available in a more colourful format, along with suitable illustrations, on our website. Sam's will be posted there this week.

Sam Rawson interviews David Bokser

Sam: What technology did you use to create the figures in "The Old Man and the Fish"?
David: I used Maya 6.5 on Windows 2000 PCs for most of it. The texturing on the characters was done in Photoshop CS.

Sam: I use Flash to create my animations and have no idea how to set about creating an animation in 3D. Could you briefly describe the stages you have to go through to create an animation as sophisticated as "The Old Man and the Fish"? How long did the animation take you to do?
David: The animation took a year from conception to final film. The first 3 months were spent on planning and concept work. Putting together the storyboards, developing the character and environment concept work. After the characters were designed, they were modeled and textured in Maya. A friend of mine did the old man model and fish suit while I was working on the environment models; the house, pier, and lake. After the modeling and texturing was finished, the old man and the fish suit had to be rigged, which is where you have to set up the skeletal structure and attach controls to make it more intuitive for the animator to animate. This is also where you set up all the face shapes, etc, to let the character be more expressive. With all of the models and rigs finished, the next stage was to make a 3D animatic. This is where the characters and props are put into their environment and the shots are set up according to the boards. This is done so you could get a feel of how the final will look in 3d and if there are any shots that need to be changed or added before animation starts. Once the animatic was finished, I handed it off to my sound editor and composer to start on a rough soundtrack, while we started on the animation. I had 4 other people help with the animation, and this is where the 3D animatic came in handy. The animatic gave the other animators information about the camera and timing of the main actions that they could work off of. Without that, it would be harder to keep consistent between multiple shots. After the animation was done, each of the shots was lit and rendered. It was at this phase that any in-scene effects such as the water were created. Once all of the shots were lit and rendered, the post effects, such as the bubbles, compositing, and color correcting was done. A lot of the shots also had matte paintings that were done during production as background elements; all of the skies and trees and things. Those were composited into the rendered shots as well. After all of the scenes were final, it was all assembled together and edited into a final pass at which point the music and sound effects were finalized and added in.

Sam: How much of the production was teamwork? How much was you?
David: As I mentioned in the previous question, I had a number of people help me out on it. It's hard to put a number to "how much of it was teamwork" since the film would have been very different without the team I had. The film was my senior thesis project for school, so I came up with the concept for the story and I supervised every part of production. I did roughly half of the modeling, 2/3rds of the animation, and 2/3rds of the lighting, and all of the compositing and editing. The film was done as a requirement for a few of my classes, but my friends helped on various shots and models in their free time, so I had more time to do the brunt of the work.

Sam: How did you come up with such an amazing idea?
David: I don't think there is something that could be called "an amazing idea." As was pointed out in your school blog, the idea of the Old Man and the Fish is just an oceanic version of the Icarus story, even though it's not something that I was conscious of during the production of the film. I think the difference between good ideas and bad ideas are execution, so you could turn any idea into either a good or bad film. As for how the Old Man and the Fish was started, I wanted to make a film that the audience responded to emotionally, instead of the one joke gag films that I was seeing all over the place at the time.

Sam: The world of the old man seems to be a mixture of realism and fantasy. Are we to take it as real or as a metaphor?
David: Parts of it were meant to be taken as metaphor but I supposed when I was working on it, I considered everything happening in the story to be realistic. When the koi fish jumps on the boat and leaves a scale, the scale represents a metaphorical perfection that he embodies the fish to be, but the metaphor is supposed to be from the old man's perspective.

Sam: Some of the scenes in the movie were very spectacular. For instance we feature on our website a screenshot of the old man about to leap into the water set against a sunset. Are you conscious when movie-making of attempting the big dramatic scene?
David: I'm really happy that you bring up that part, and it seems to be the part that's most memorable to people in the film. When constructing the story of the Old Man and the Fish, that was the first scene I had in my mind about the story, and I built the story around that image. It was supposed to embody the whole concept of the film. So, to answer the question, I was conscious of attempting the big scene.

Sam: In class we could not make out if the man was sad or spooky. What is your take on your character? For instance we discussed whether or not the fish were getting their own back.
David: I was aiming for the character to be sad and not spooky, so I'm kinda disappointed that it came across that way. I think it might perhaps have to do with the nonchalance the fish displayed at the old man's death. I received pressrue from a number of my professors to make the ending happy and have the fish save him, but that I guess is where the realism of the previous question comes into play. I wanted the fish to appear realistic to the audience so the fish are unaware of the old man's plight even as he's drowning.

Sam: Why do you not include any dialogue in this animation?
David: There are a few reasons. One of the major ones is that I didn't have the resources in school to get a good actor to do a good dialogue track. I didn't think the story called for it, since there was no one for the old man to really talk to. Also, when learning animation, a lot of the lessons are about conveying emotion through body language. That's something I was trying to experiment while animating the film.

Sam: What was the single most difficult scene to animate?
David: The most difficult was the drowning close-up shot of the old man breathing his last breath. He does a number of big emotional transitions from bliss, to panic, acceptance, and finally peace. In top of that, I had to make it look like he was struggling to swim underwater. It was by far the hardest shot I had to work on in the film, and I still don't think I really succeeded in getting across what I wanted with it.

Sam: The end of the movie is disturbing. Why did you create such an interesting, yet emotional conclusion as the man drowns in the lake?
David: As I said, one of the big reasons for making the film for me was to make something that had an emotional impact. I started the film knowing how I wanted it to end and I built up the story around that ending.

Sam: Do you produce the sounds and background music yourself? What sort of software do you use for this?
David: I didn't produce the background sound and music. A friend of mine, Hunter Curra did, and he used a program called Pro Tools for the majority of the sound mixing. We also brought in a cello player that Hunter recorded and Hunter played the piano parts on a keyboard.

Sam: At this stage in your life is making animation films your job or a hobby?
David: I'm currently working as an animator as a day job, but I'm also working on another animated short film at home as well. So it's both. If I wasn't working as an animator, I'd still be doing it in my spare time.

Sam: What inspired you to animate and why choose this as a vocation?
David: I was always a big computer nerd growing up. I also loved drawing and would always doodle cartoon characters for my friends in class, so I grew up with an artistic and technical background. What really got me interested in animation was Toy Story. I loved the Disney films growing up but when Toy Story came out, that combined everything I was interested in - cartoons and computers. I picked up a bunch of books on computer animation and was hooked.

Sam: What's the best way of getting into animation? What sort of courses should I take?
David: The best way of getting into animation is just doing it. Use whatever resources you can and experiment with making films. As for courses, I think the foundation courses in school were important. Knowing how to draw, color theory, design theory and things like that will help give you a better vision of how you want your film to look. The second most important classes I took were my project courses, which let me bring an idea from start to finish and gave me the incentive and deadlines to actually get it finished. Those were the ones where I learned the most.

Sam: If you could turn any book into an animation what would it be?
David: I've always wanted to make Voltaire's Candide into an animated film. The writing style is so stylized and fast paced that I think it would lend itself perfectly to the medium.

Sam: Finally, if you were to project ten years into the future where would you hope to be with your career?
David: In 10 years, I'd like to have directed an animated feature film. I have an idea in mind that I'm trying to develop so hopefully I'll have some luck with it when I have a screenplay ready.

Sam: Thank you so much for answering my questions so fully, David, and good luck in the future.

David Bokser’s website is davidbokser.com
His animation is featured elsewhere on our animation
blog and is also 2007 movie of the week 11

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Adam Swaab "Icarus"

The story of "Icarus" is a famous one because it seems to encapsulate all those concerns about men and women who aim too high, move too fast, attempt too much - and then come down to earth with a bang. The ancient Greeks knew a thing or two about mankind challenging the Gods. Adam Swaab's Icarus is a high tech version of the myth set within an intricately illustrated manuscript. Pages turn and our hero is a supercharged robot soaring into the heavens. Or to be exact the child falls to the sea, the inventor and father to the earth in a ball of flames. They meet up again in another rather heated world however. The classy artwork is both literal and figurative. Adam works for the Californian based Blur. Enjoy their latest impressive Animation Reel and other work including Stuntsman which I just guess will appeal to many of my students.

Sam Rawson's interview with David Bokser will be featured here tomorrow. David is another of our correspondents who has spent time and thought on his replies to some thoughtful, even searching questions. It is an interesting read.

Friday, 4 May 2007

Top Ten Tips - practical advice for finishing off a flash movie

You may be interested in my teaching notes for my classes as they move towards completion of their animations:
  1. Ensure that you screen off your stage area by placing rectangular blocks of fill colour, without the stroke colour, to surround the stage area. Therefore when viewed in full screen mode, only what is seen on the stage is visible. It also neatens up the whole appearance of the animation. Copy the frame you first produce and paste it as the first layer on each subsequent scene. You can also experiment by placing an extra border around the stage to give a thin strip of colour that acts rather like a frame for a photograph. Remember you can experiment with the thickness of the frame using the appropriate tool in Properties – just ensure the fill is not active as you will mask everything.
  2. Ensure that all your text is the same font and size throughout the movie. Experiment with fonts, sizes and colours first to see what works and make it consistent in all frames. Check your spelling using a spell checker on “Word” first then paste into animation.
  3. Your opening and closing credits should complement the animation not totally overwhelm it. Too many flashy tweens spoil what you produce. Ensure too that you work out exactly how much time is needed for someone to read the material. Sometimes a plain and simple static title and concluding credit is best.
  4. Transition between the different scenes is key. You may have to create an extra scene or scenes to make your story clear to the viewer. Ask someone to view the more or less finished product and where they are in doubt think what you can add to clarify things. You may also need to put in a fading alpha shape tween between the different scenes. Once created this can be copied and reused.
  5. Your use of your library is an essential element in polishing your movie. Graphics or tweens can be reused, perhaps having duplicated them, to build up your scenes. This is particularly true with the credits. But consider playing one individual scene. This creates a movie clip and can be imported into your library and reused. For surprisingly little effort some spectacular effects can be created.
  6. Some of your scenes may be too bare and detract from the overall movie. Create extra bits of interest, perhaps as movie clips, and import them in to brighten up a scene.
  7. Some of your most interesting artwork may simply be missed because you do not make the most of it. For example, by changing a detailed city scene into a motion tween and zooming in and out you can add much more visual appeal to your movie.
  8. Stop or replay buttons can add visual impact and a touch of professionalism to your movie. Remember that they can be something more than a circle with “Replay” added to them. Duplicate a particular graphic image you have worked on earlier. Perhaps you should change the colour. Use this as the basis for your button.
  9. Music fills in the gaps and establishes atmosphere. Scenes that may seem slow on their own can be transformed into a thing of beauty by the correct music. The music you choose should suit the animation. You are not choosing music you wish to listen to on your iPod. You are choosing music for a purpose. Sometimes classical music is perfect. Don’t dismiss it.
  10. Finally, give your animation a distinctive title. Don’t simply call it “Change” or “Persian Carpet” if this is the general title for all the students.

Thursday, 3 May 2007

"Tower of Grantville" Buck & Nexus Productions' "Honda Commercial"

Some of the finest talents in animation work in the advertising industry. Buck is a motion/graphics company based in Los Angeles. One of their current projects is for "Scion", a division of Toyota. The company was given an unusual commission, essentially to draw attention to a website and game set up especially for the promotion. The result is a spectacular movie with all sorts of science fictiony effects and an old man with a square head, Tower of Grantville. The company says it is inspired by the zany Dr Seuss cartoonist, largely equated in my own mind with “The Cat in the Hat”. Enjoy the movie and then be directed to the http://www.want2bsquare.com contest, a very interesting and well executed game, sadly not open to UK residents, in which one can win a host of prizes including a Scion car. Talking of cars, the campaign would have to go some to beat that for the Honda Diesel produced by the London based Nexus Productions, currently celebrating their 10th anniversary. Their site is a treasure trove of top quality work into which I shall be dipping with my classes in the not too distant future (for their new examination topic.) Their ad for Honda can't have been too bad - I went and bought the car.




Buck

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Greg Gunn, Casey Hunt & Reza Rasoli "Humans" & "Samurai"

Greg Gunn, Casey Hunt & Reza Rasoli together comprise “Three Legged Legs”, a newly formed production company from St. Santa Monica, CA. Although it is only short (1 minute) and produced in their final year at college, their ecological documentary "Humans" is a jolly affair, with diagrams and a bloodthirsty race spoiling, indeed slaughtering, the planet. Their website is whimsical although nevertheless slickly professional, showcasing some excellent material of varied styles. I also viewed "Samurai", equally as good a movie with the same sense of humour and some delicious and atmospheric backgrounds. In this movie our hero is saved from immediate execution on condition he completes a seemingly impossible task alongside some quite specific restriction that he seems to ignore, or does he?

Tuesday, 1 May 2007

Lauren Indovina & Lindsey Mayer-Beug "Fish Heads Fugue"

At approximately the same time as Eva Bennett was producing her animation featured yesterday, Lauren Indovina & Lindsey Mayer-Beug were working on an entirely different movie at Rhode Island School of Design, "Fish Heads Fugue and other Tales for Twilight". They use a whole raft of different methods of animation including computer based work, cut-outs and hand held puppets. It is difficult to recount the story. Imagine Alice in Wonderland was set in a a decrepid theatre full of mechanical winching machinery, stage flats and properties, and revolving stage devices that twist and turn, not without a few groans from the machinery. Imagine this was peopled by grotesque characters who might just possibly be puppets or puppet masters, and an innocent young girl who may be a victim. And imagine this whole thing was directed by Terry Gilliam. Imagine all this and you might prepare yourself for a theatrical animated feast. You can view the movie at AnimWatch.

Two further interviews are pending and they are both exciting events. Yesterday Till Nowak agreed to be interviewed by James Cooper about his spectacular movie "Delivery"; this morning Dik Jarman agreed to Adam Fadra's request to be questioned about his utterly moving tribute to his father, "Dad's Clock". Both these movies have made a real impact on our students and they should hopefully stimulate some searching questions.