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Saturday, 30 June 2007

Matt Abbiss "Bus Stop"

Almost a month ago to the day I recommended Invasion by Matt Abbiss. Exploring Sherbet's site (yesterday's post) I discovered where Matt resides. His Bus Stop is classy. In similar fashion to Invasion it is sketched black on white but is a simple tale of a man (and companion) standing at a bus stop complete with brolly that comes in very useful for fending off everything from rain to bombs. Nothing deep about it but clever, with a confident pen stroke. Frame by frame animation works well in both cases. You might also enjoy Poor God though I could not get it to play very well. Play on the other hand did play, as two characters cavort about though one not half so good as the other. Matt evidently attended the University of Teeside where somewhere in the vault is a copy of his Open Your Mind which I have been unable to find, sadly.
Tomorrow I shall post a really interesting interview with Darren Price of Nexus. Jack Whitmore posed some thoughtful questions not only about Darren's personal animation project but also the work of a leading animation studio and the opportunities and challenges involved. And Darren has answered honestly and in detail. For those interested in the industry (and increasingly my students are) it's a good read.

Friday, 29 June 2007

Sherbet's Candy Guard, Voice of Reason & Laurie J Proud, Coca Cola Light

Kathy Burke is one of the UK's strongest character actresses with a very distinctive voice and here it is put to good use as the character Nesta for Ski Yoghurt. The ad, Voice of Reason, for Nestle by Ogilvy & Mather is simply drawn against a white background into which colours for the fruit flavourings are only added towards the close. Nesta is a real moaner and a distinctive character: voice and animation in perfect sympathy. There is a clutch of similar animations by their creator Candy Guard. I shall have to explore the site more with my class. Or perhaps try this very short but utterly cool cafe for Coca Cola Light with glamorous young people in red and black. The animator here was Laurie J Proud. Again his work portfolio is large and impressive. The studio is Sherbet and I will return. Judging by the personal success of their core staff in winning awards this is an exciting team.
In the meantime I have a lot of work to post on our website including two interviews, lots of animations and movies of the week. Sadly however our server is situated in the basement of a flooded office in Scunthorpe and the internet at school is a distant memory.

Thursday, 28 June 2007

National Film Board of Canada "Web Animation Competition 2005"

Produced for Expo 2005 in Aichai, Japan here are five very short films together with interviews with their creators (variously in English and French though where necessary subtitles are provided). It was a competition and I liked them all but if I had to choose I would go for "Roots" by Karine Savard because its depiction of the changing seasons and the different facets of society is perhaps the most complex one minute flash animation I have seen. It is so beautifully designed with butterflies, cities and a cartwheeling figure that when the credits actually appeared they were so integrated into the whole I thought they were part of the action. The other four were good. In turn then I must mention "Seeds" by David K Mean because it is so colourful and stylish as the seed is sown and gorgous colourful flowers appear; and Marc -Andre Toupin's "Carp" which shows landscape does not have to be natural to be beautiful and also has a nice tale to tell of two men cooking their catch. The other two, Olivier Breton's "Wisdom of Diversity" and "Bon Appétit or Wisdom of Diversity" by Philippe Arseneau Bussières, are also super. Olivier's appeals to anyone who ever liked making mechano models and Philppe's is all about how to fail at eating. Canadian animation is something else even if I, as usual, am a little late discovering this treat. You can follow the link and choose your language by clicking http://www.nfb.ca/aichi. And if you want to know who won it was .... my last one. Not that they were in order of my enjoyment. There is a 2006 competition for me to see as well. I'll get back to that.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Elanna Allen "Bing Can Sing" & "Pass the Pinha"

Freshly Squeezed Productions is another of those names for an animation company that just hits the spot. I can vouch that one 30 month old toddler loved my two suggested animations by Elanna Allen, who founded the company in 2005. The animations are aimed at the 2-5 market and thus should be perfect for my own students. They are simple and cute with lots of repetition and tweets. I think you should enjoy "Bing Can Sing" first as this introduces the characters straight from the egg and then, whilst you figure out what a pinha tastes like (Brazilian fruit), watch the hatchlings pass the parcel, sorry, pinha. The music in both cases is catchy in a rhythmic (and potentially irritating) way though I personally love the Samba. If you want to know more about Elanna read Mrs Polman's school report. By following up the link you can see some lovely and varied illustrations and, naturally, child-centred art predominates. There are other animations on the site though my internet connection seemed to have a hitch here, albeit it was fine for the cute character illustrations that appeal to warm hearted kids everywhere. Well, my granddaughter and me.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Davide Ragona and Davide Saraceno

This is the twelfth 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. Cameron's will be posted there later in the week.

Cameron Ivey-Drayton interviews Davide Ragona and Davide Saraceno

"A Brand New Psycho" is done in drawn lines. How much of this is computer generated or drawn in the traditional way by pencil?
“A Brand New Psycho” is entirely digital, there's no traditional pencil (if we exclude the initial sketches), but the process is partly the traditional one. All the characters are hand-drawn frame-by-frame in Flash using a standard. Intuos graphic tablet; vice-versa for the backgrounds we used 3D models rendered as vector cell-shaded images; we then had to import the 3D images into Flash and modify them to get a coherent style.

“A Brand New Psycho” è un’animazione interamente digitale, non c’è l’utilizzo della matita in senso classico (se non per gli schizzi iniziali), ma la tecnica utilizzata è in parte quella tradizionale. Tutti i personaggi sono disegnati a mano frame by frame utilizzando la tavoletta grafica, mentre per quanto riguarda gli ambienti, abbiamo utilizzato il 3d esportando in vettoriale e modificando in flash il tratto, per ottenere uno stile coerente.

Where did the idea come from for this violence in the underground?
The idea originated from a series of influences we got in that moment: the spreading of new mass psychosis after 11/9, the strengthening of public safety measures in public areas (undergrounds, airports, etc…) and the special mood that pervades the comic book "El Eternauta" by Héctor Oesterheld and Francisco Solano, that we read just in that period.

L’idea è nata da un insieme di suggestioni che abbiamo avuto in quel momento: il diffondersi di nuove ansie metropolitane post 11 settembre, l’inasprimento delle misure di controllo nei luoghi pubblici (metropolitane, aereoporti etc) e un certo mood derivato dalle pagine del fumetto “El Eternauta” di Héctor Oesterheld e Francisco Solano, che avevamo letto proprio in quel periodo.

You use obvious cartoon figures. Were you tempted to be more realistic in what they looked like? (They could easily have been frightening thugs.)
The characters' style is consequence of the way I like (and I am able) to draw!. But it's not just that: I think that a less complex-and-realistic style is able to provoke a deeper response in the audience; in fact on one hand synthesis forces you to a symbolic reading of the picture (see Scott McCloud, “Understanding Comics”, Chapter 2: The Vocabulary of Comics), on the other hand images turn out more disturbing right because usually drawings are related to the childhood imagery, and consequently harmless.

Lo stile dei personaggi è conseguenza del modo in cui mi piace (e so) disegnare!
Ma non solo quello: penso che uno stile non immediato e realistico provochi una reazione più profonda nello spettatore; infatti da un lato la sintesi ti invita a dare una lettura simbolica (vedi Scott McCloud, “Understanding Comics”), dall’altro l'immagine risulta più disturbante proprio perché normalmente il disegno è associato all’immaginario infantile, e quindi innoquo.

Why is the movie in black and white rather than colour?
We chose to work in a very sharp black and white because we wanted to convey that antiseptic and haunted kind of mood.

Abbiamo scelto di lavorare in un bianco e nero molto netto, perché volevamo creare quel tipo di atmosfera asettica e allucinata.

What were you trying to say in your movie about the use of cameras in public areas. Are they good or bad?
The purpose of our movie was not to state certainties, but we tried to provoke questions in the viewer. Some elements can be read in many different ways, cameras are one of those. It's true, cameras are a form of security; but it's also true that a city filled up with always-looking-lenses raises some doubts about personal privacy (more on this in another comic book, Alan Moore's Watchmen, "Who watches the watchmen?"). Moreover the short tells the story "already going on" and we don't know neither who the characters are nor what their aims are (is the "good guy" a common citizen escaping from his fears, or from criminals, or even he is a bad guy running away from policemen?).

Il film non si propone l’intento di stabilire certezze, ma piuttosto di scatenare domande.
Ci sono una serie di elementi che possono essere letti in più modi, le telecamere sono uno di questi. E’ vero che le telecamere a circuito chiuso sono una forma di protezione, è vero anche che una città puntellata di obiettivi che ti osservano, fa nascere qualche perplessità sulla propria privacy (per approfondire vedi un altro fumetto, Watchmen di Alan Moore, "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?"). Inoltre il corto racconta una storia “gia iniziata” e non è dato sapere chi siano i personaggi rappresentati né quali siano le loro motivazioni (siamo di fronte a un cittadino inseguito dalle sue ansie, o da due malviventi, o addirittura è lui il malvivente in fuga dalla polizia?).

At first we thought in class that this was an American movie. Is the influence of the USA very great in your work.
We can not deny the genre-movies influence in “A Brand New Psycho”, but that is not directly connected with the U.S.A., as much as it is to Hong Kong action movies (that strongly affected recent U.S. cinema).

We used rhythm, choreography and editing to suggest a "real-life cops-TV" kind of mood, terrorism turned into a spectacle; we tried to push the audience to feel a sense of identification for the extensive use of this visual language in modern media.

L’influenza del cinema di genere è innegabile in “A Brand New Psycho”, ma non rimanda direttamente agli Stati Uniti, piuttosto all’action movie di Hong Kong (che negli ultimi tempi ha influenzato il cinema nordamericano).

Il ritmo, le coreografie e il montaggio ci sono serviti per sottolineare un certo mood televisivo alla RealTv, una pettacolarizzazione del fenomeno terrorismo; abbiamo cercato di creare una maggior immedesimazione dello spettatore grazie alla diffusione massiccia di questo linguaggio nei media moderni.

Have you used other software to produce animations or do your specialise in Flash?
We use different softwares, apart from Flash; for "A Brand New Psycho", for instance, we recurred heavily to 3D (3D Studio Max + a cel-shading plug-in), while lately we use After Effects, Photoshop and Illustrator since they allow a major expressiveness.

Utilizziamo software differenti da Flash, già per questo corto c’è stata una massiccia integrazione di 3D (3D Studio Max + un plug-in per il cel shading), ultimamente usiamo After Effects, Photoshop and Illustrator, perché permettono maggiori possibilità espressive.

How important is producing a successful movie like "A Brand New Psycho" in obtaining other commercial work?
It's kind of important. Making “A Brand New Psycho” allowed us to join festivals, meet interesting people and make new collaboration and work connections. At the end of 2004 Bologna's Future Film Festival asked us to create their official opening titles sequence, in 2006 we got and accepted a job offer from Los Angeles, making eight animated clips for Susan Dynner's film "Punk’s Not Dead", released in June 2007 across the U.S.

Piuttosto importante. Aver realizzato un corto come “A Brand New Psycho” ci ha permesso di girare nei festival, incontrare persone interessate e instaurare nuovi rapporti di collaborazione e di lavoro. Alla fine del 2004 il Future Film Festival di Bologna ci ha commissionato i loro titoli di apertura, nel 2006 abbiamo ricevuto e accettato una proposta da Los Angeles, realizzando le otto clip animate per il film “Punk’s Not Dead” di Susan Dynner, che è uscito in a Giugno 2007 nelle sale americane.

Is animation a business for you or a hobby?
Definitely a business!

When we made “A Brand New Psycho” we were a "creative lab", working online far from each other since we lived in different towns; now, three years later, ALIEN FACTORY is a real agency, based in Reggio Emilia (north of Italy), with bugging clients and taxes to pay!

Decisamente un lavoro!

Ai tempi in cui abbiamo realizzato “A Brand New Psycho” eravamo un “laboratorio creativo”, distanti in città diverse e lavoravamo online; adesso, a distanza di 3 anni, ALIEN FACTORY è un’agency vera e propria con sede a Reggio Emilia (nel nord Italia), coi clienti che ci stressano e le tasse da pagare!

How do you imagine your careers will change in the future?
Hope that will be all for the best!

Speriamo in bene!

Can you tell me something about your backgrounds? How were you trained? Did you study animation at university in Italy? Do you both have different skills?
We both love visual arts (cinema, illustration, comic books, graphic design) but we have different bents so we developed complementary skills: Davide Ragona works as a director/editor, while Davide Saraceno as an art director.

We are both self-taught guys since we weren't lucky enough to attend animation schools (also because there weren't this kind of school some years ago!). Even now the young italian animator-wannabe has to rely on her/his skills and firmness a lot and learn things on her/his own, studying the classic and using the Internet, an invaluable resource – because the few specialization schools are very expensive or apply selective entry.

Entrambi amiamo le arti visive in genere (cinema, illustrazione, fumetto, grafica) ma per predisposizione abbiamo sviluppato skill diversificate: Davide Ragona si occupa principalmente della regia mentre Davide Saraceno dell’art direction.

Siamo autodidatti perché non abbiamo avuto la fortuna di frequentare scuole specialistiche per l’animazione (anche perché in Italia fino a poco tempo fa non esistevano strutture di questo tipo!). Ancora oggi il giovane animatore-wannabe italiano deve affidarsi in buona parte alle proprie capacità e costanza nell’imparare le cose per conto suo, usando i classici libri e Internet, risorsa insostituibile – perché le poche scuole specializzate sono molto care o a numero chiuso.

How popular or successful is animation as an industry in Italy?
We don't see a true "animation industry" in Italy – meaning an industry for quality feature films or series. Yardbarker: It's been some years since an interesting phenomenon started related to animation and motion graphics for TV (commercials and bumpers, TV show opening titles, music videos): globalization raised audience's quality standards through satellite TV networks, Internet and music channels, so an underworld made of small studios is slowly taking form: they do graphic design, illustration, video and 3D, they are something different form the traditional animation companies.

In Italia non esiste una vera e propria "industria dell’animazione" – se intendiamo la produzione di lungometraggi o serie animate di qualità. Da qualche anno stiamo però assistendo a un fenomeno interessante legato all’animazione e motion graphics per le TV (spot e bumper, sigle dei programmi TV, videoclip musicali): con la globalizzazione TV satellitari, Internet e canali musicali hanno alzato poco alla volta gli standard qualitativi del pubblico, per cui si sta sviluppando un sottobosco di piccoli studi che si muovono fra grafica, illustrazione, video e 3D, ben diversi da quelli di animazione tradizionale...

Can you recommend any good Italian animators whose work we should see?
Ok, two cult authors: Bruno Bozzetto and Osvaldo Cavandoli.
And a young one, perfect example of the "new wave" we were talking about in our previous answer, Mauro Gatti.
http://www.bozzetto.com/
http://www.thebrainbox.com/
http://www.mutado.com/

OK, due storici, che dovete assolutamente conoscere: Bruno Bozzetto e Osvaldo Cavandoli.
E un giovane, ottimo esemplare di quella “nuova generazione” di cui ti parlavamo prima, Mauro Gatti.

Why did you choose "Alien Factory" as the name of your company?
Our name is first of all a tribute to sci-fi, a genre we are both fans of; then we also like to think about our agency as a "creative factory" forging ideas from the outer space.

Il nome è prima di tutto un omaggio alla fantascienza, un genere di cui siamo appassionati; in più ci piace pensare al nostro studio come una “fabbrica di idee” che vengono da un altro pianeta.

Finally could you give me any information about your next animation project?
Actually right now we are not working on new animations, if we exclude commercial motion graphics clips; but we are working on our new reel and website, so stay tooned!

In realtà in questo momento non abbiamo un nuovo lavoro in cantiere, se non qualche motion commerciale; stiamo lavorando però al nostro nuovo reel e sito web, quindi state sintonizzati!

Davide and Davide’s movie may be viewed at their website: http://www.say-bye-to-your-silly-planet.com
Their work has also been previewed on our website

Monday, 25 June 2007

Flight Demo "Virgin Galactic:Project Genesis"

This is an animation, or rather flight simulation, that will appeal to my students. Listen to the voice of Richard Branson describe “the Virgin Experience” and then enjoy the journey itself in “Let the Journey Begin”. There are also some super images on the site from Brian Binnie. The whole site is a swish affair and I guess Branson tends to deliver what he says he will. However the real treasure is on the Pixel Liberation Front's Superman Returns – Flight Demo. Here you see the full simulated experience of travelling into space. If it were all simulated I'd be the first to fly into space. Even if I were the multi-millionaire I doubt whether or not I would climb into the real thing. In fact I'll be stronger than that: multi-millions wouldn't persuade me in. PLF is a Californian company based in Venice. Their portfolio includes work on Matrix Reloaded and Spiderman so we are talking animation superstars here but Branson is ... well, British!
(http://www.thefront.com/)
And thanks to Darren Price whose interview with Jack Whitmore about “Potapych, The Bear Who Loved Vodka” came through today. It's a detailed article and all the more welcome because Darren is a busy man in the advertising industry. He has some interesting things to say.

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Dancing Diablo

Dancing Diablo is a creative studio founded in 2002 and based in Brooklyn, New York. If yesterday's offering was subtle colour, Dancing Diablo's website is vibrant and a bright red, as befits the name - but there again it is the advertising industry and if you are pushing products like Crest Citrus Splash you expect a splash of orange, or zest in their award winning animation for Oxygen Network. Their output is very varied however. Rosa Negra has atmospheric Latin music and a climbing rose reaching into New York's skyscrapers, their Sesame Workshop "Get up and Grow" features some lovely pastel animations of a young girl tending her plant (which repays the kindness) and a similar pastel treatment is given to the story of Joe and Viv who burn some cheese in "Between the Lions". And you have to admit the studio's name has a bit of verve and sparkle about it.
Sabine Hitier, by the way, informs me she is hoping to create a series of animations in similar vein to "Petit à petit" for television, Peter Lacalamita has agreed to be interviewed by Sam Baines, and I've had no time to post the excellent interview with Davide Ragona and Davide Saraceno. That's for early next week now, sorry.

Saturday, 23 June 2007

Sabine Hitier "Petit à petit"

"Petit à petit" by Sabine Hitier is a magical film for children (of all ages.) It is about a young girl who befriends a caterpillar. The companionship the insect provides and the adventures they enjoy together is the basis of this utterly charming 2D animation. It is simply adorable. For instance the pair float amongst clouds like thistle seeds until they alight on a floating story book with the tree in the illustration upright like a pop-up. Or the moment when the caterpillar sucks fruit juice from a straw and we see the colours course through its semi-transparent body. But perhaps the most imaginative touch is the delicate change of colour in the animation as the movie progresses. The girl commences with the watercolour of her hair very diluted indeed. As her friendship blossoms and her days are filled her hair becomes a feast of golden, dancing ringlets. There is so much invention in this delightful movie. The dialogue in the movie is sparse and my schoolboy French rose to the challenge. Sabine's website (http://www.sabinehitier.com/) is also a treat and you will enjoy her illustrations. You can also download two movies : "La révolte des haricots rouges" and "The Loving Planet". The first is about the adventures of a white kitten and some revolting red beans, the second has a spaceboy being caressed by a planet. They are both excellent. But "Petit à petit" is something else. Sabine works for the film company 2 Minutes. Such talent and one of the very best movies I have seen this year. Une joie absolue!

Friday, 22 June 2007

Peter Lacalamita "The Red Kite"


The giant stone Eagle and the Lion stand sentinels on a barren planet full of angular rocks that spike the sky. Into this world emerges a child flying the red kite of the title. Such innocence can be misinterpeted by the super powers and madness is only a pull of a lever away. This is the scenario set out in the latest movie, "The Red Kite" , by Canadian illustrator and animator, Peter Lacalamita. There is an interesting epitaph to the movie in the words of Barbara Tuchman, the American historian and author, whose observation about the causes of war form the basis for Peter's work. This is not the quotation he uses from Tuchman's work but I liked it: “Rome had Caesar, a man of remarkable governing talents, although it must be said that a ruler who arouses opponents to resort to assassination is probably not as smart as he ought to be.”
Back to the animation. For those who have seen Peter's excellent "Moonstruck" this animation has some parallels. First it is set on a planet that is decidedly not the earth and second it ends in disappointment, an explosive disappointment to be exact. Then there is the quality of the drawing. Unlike "Moonstruck" it is in 3D. This gives depth and perspective though Peter's sheer artistic skill in 2D was a delight in the earlier work. Finally I should point out the excellent original music by Anthony Delduca. This is more orchestral than the electronic accompaniment to "Moonstruck", more film-like. "The Red Kite" is an allegory and a thought-provoking one at that. For example, my class this morning noted the symbols of the Weimar eagle. The link is to Peter's version of a movie yet to be placed on his site.

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Davide Ragona and Davide Saraceno "A Brand New Psycho" & Ilias Sounas

Davide Ragona and Davide Saraceno are two highly talented animators whose 2004 work "A Brand New Psycho" is genuinely exciting. Cameron Ivey-Drayton has been successful in obtaining a very revealing interview with the two guys that I shall post here at the weekend. They have also sent me some images of their work, past and present which I shall also attach. It is a tale of a pursuit in the underground, surrounded by cameras. I like their method of working: black pencil against a white background, and all sorts of strange perspectives to build up the tension. My students have also enjoyed the music. The estimable Bitfilm Festival website of of that year (http://www2004.bitfilm-festival.org/index_e.html) describes it thus: "The Flesh Puppet walks on the edge of the Western Metropolis’ naked nerves – an escape from police control and new terrorism psychosis." I suppose this is helpful particularly the word "psychosis". Whatever, we'll see how Davide + Davide explain it. (We asked the questions!) You can watch the movie and prepare for the interview via the following link. (http://www.say-bye-to-your-silly-planet.com/works/ABNP/ABNP_online.html.
I also had a reply to my email from Ilias Sounas, Design+Motion Illustrator, Flash Animator and Chief Editor of "Grafistas + web design" magazine. I featured his work on 7th June. Illias is far better at English than I am at Greek and he's a nice guy. His description of his work constitutes an interview of sorts:
"As you saw in my website my illustrations are mainly female figures with striking colours and elements of nature. But my animations have another purpose. I try to create simple short films yet quite allegorical with very strong messages involving human feelings and unexpected end points influenced purely by ancient Greek philosophy. And music is a considerable factor since it should always contribute to the overall mood."
Check up on his work because he has real talent and a pretty snazzy website: http://www.sounasdesign.com/mainsite.htm

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Matt Andrews

I was led to the 2007 reel for New York based motion graphics artist, Matt Andrews, through the excellent animation blog, no fat clips, and its review of his promotional piece for the USA men’s fashion site http://www.g13brand.com/. There are many styles of animation and this short piece by Matt features a finely drawn image of a wolf over which are superimposed (and very smooth) subdued olives, blacks and white. Bits and pieces drift like leaves or, to be more accurate, blobs of oil on water. It’s all very atmospheric. I’m not sure what it told me of the fashions on offer, but then having visited the G13 brand site I’m not entirely sure what is on offer. But it is certainly stylish. Matt's “silky black reel” is accomplished and a distinctive vehicle for his talent. Visit http://www.silkyblackgold.com/. By the way, and its fashions are too young for me, I know someone in my family who swears by the website for http://www.asos.com/. He tells me it is a model for website design and home shopping. What they need however is a good animator to jazz up their site. Then I can feature it.

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Visioni Animate 2005

"John The Brave" by Andrea Castellani is just one of a number of short but imaginative flash animations from Visioni Animate 2005 . (I know I'm over a year late but I've only discovered them.) There's also a 2004 festival but I have been unable to discover last year's. So 2005 it is then. John (the brave) is willing to take on the fierce lion for the prize, not that it exactly works out as he anticipated. With teacher's hat on I must point to the use of the split screen, often used in film but not in my students' animations. Sadly Andrea was only sixth in the competition (but read on.) "Losers" by Cosimo Lorenzo Pancini actually won the festival prize and the game. Soccer is big in my class and Cosimo's animation is big on socccer. Per un pugno di... by Andrea Castellani has a manic frog and some rather nice tints of pink and red in the colour scheme. Enjoy, belatedly, the festival whilst it is still on-line.

Monday, 18 June 2007

Sergei Aniskov "Panic Attack"


Sergei Aniskov's flash animation "Panic Attack" available at his own website (http://www.farunder.com) has been gripping our students almost ever since it was created in 2003. It is a fast-moving animation about a boy who suffers a panic attack on a train and then lives through a nightmarish bout of horrors that mirror the pace of the train as scenery shoots past and he is attacked by a rook and a fighter aircraft. Or he thinks he is. A resident in Moscow, Sergei has also lived in New York. I do hope he is still animating because his site has only work created up to 2003. I also like the "CCCP Vs. St.Valentina" and "The Boatman's Call Remix". In the latter the roving sailor has a duty in port from which he is unable to escape. It is drawn in an idiosyncratic style I find most compelling. Indeed I prefer his 2D to his 3D efforts such as the wittily named "Deja Moo". I'll have to contact him and see what he is up to.

Friday, 15 June 2007

Jenny Middleton "Top Imagination"

I have introduced a new graphic to the title page. A still from Jenny Middleton's “Top Imagination” is the chosen image for now. Jenny produced this short circus animation for her 14 hour exam a while back but it seems to fit. Her original is in colour whereas I'm monotone. Sadly. She ran out of the time needed to complete the final two legs of the tiger so the first two will have to do. “Through a Child’s Eyes” was my favourite movie by her. This is a touching story about evacuation in WW2 and I particularly like the minimalist style of drawing. Her promise was shown in her first year with “Walking”, a sentimental tale of a miracle cure produced in conjunction with Hannah Custons.
There is a nice use of animation in the new commercial for Toyota in Saatchi & Saatchi's Asphalt Birth.

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Peter Lacalamita “Moonstruck”


Peter Lacalamita’s 2002 award winning movie Moonstruck has been the staple diet of the Year 10 course here for four years. There is much about it on our school website but for the uninitiated this Canadian illustrator animation may be summarised thus: Peter Lacalamita’s hero is a man who lives in a sun. He is alone and searches the remoteness of space for a partner. Suddenly he spies what he thinks is a reclining woman on a passing moon and decides to make a literal leap into space, landing with a thump only to discover the “girl” is not what she seems. Set in beautiful, if lonely, space with vibrant blue and orange, it is very moving, particularly the closing sequence. His website (http://www.magneticstudio.com/) has some funny, more traditional cartoon series such as Drusilla Drake, an incompetent James Bond, or a one-off "The Showdown" about a gunfight with a cow. I have to say however that Moonstruck is just that bit different to the norm. Click on the "Illustration" section of the site however and one is quickly aware of his supreme talent as a commercial artist. His drawings have a bold and confident appeal.

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Kim Robson "Carbon Footprint"

"Carbon Footprint" by Kim Robson is part of Derby University's 2007 Degree Show, "First Flight". I understand it is their first such venture. Well they should do more. There is much to enjoy in their first show and a depth of talent is represented here both in illustration and animation. I do like Kim’s work however. The idea is simple but, as the best ideas always are, very effective: small footprints in the snow develop into great bootmarks in the land under the impact of global warming. Lovely pastoral scenes sweep before us as our golden earth is endangered, ravaged and ruined by industrialisation. Kim has primarily used Adobe After Effects and the sumptuous use of 3D as the viewer sweeps through the trees and fields of wheat is a joy to behold. The illustrations are delicate and beautiful both. Look out for Kim's work in the various animation competitions and festivals. Kim, by the way, is one of South Axholme's ex-students and we are delighted with her progress. Another of her school year is also at Derby and Laura Carter's children's book “War Games” is very appealing though the image size precludes a full study.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

“Senor Sombra” Luis Manchado González


http://www.alparaguay.com/index.htm is the home site for one of the most watchable animations I have used with my students. “Senor Sombra” is such a creepy tale. "Mr Shadow" creeps into the home in the dead of night and takes away the colours from the little boy and his nursery. I have written notes and marked lots of written work on this animation by Luis Manchado for our Year 10 work so I won't labour the point but he is very good indeed and communicates the sinister quality well. There are previews of his other work too, particularly the stylish “Crystal Palace” with its urban images in black and the lights of the apartments in red. However I did not know much about him. So here is a bit of background information. Born in 1976 this Spanish artist and animator Luis Manchado González studied Fine Arts at the University of Castilla La Mancha between 1994 and 1998. He has been involved in competitions and festival work since and has, for instance, produced some fine comics. As his website demonstrates he is very active and has talent to burn. Which is more than can be said for me because I've managed to get his name wrong (or incomplete) these past years. By the way in seaching for information about him I chanced upon this other Spanish animation, Kid Vampiro, on a similar theme by Emilio y Jesus Gallego. I know no Spanish but I guess the Gallegos are brothers.

Monday, 11 June 2007

“CN Rail” Cuppa Coffee Studios

Our new coursework is to create a commercial for television. Easy? Although it may be short it has to be right. I hit upon this from Toronto based Cuppa Coffee Studios. Their advertising for “CN Rail” is a nice one to choose because it has all the ingredients one might hope for. Against a red background emerges a train with headlights on. Tilting perspectives, abstract but precise use of scenery, clever use of the rail track repeated in varying guises throughout the advert, a rich dynamic narrator's voice and two lovely details where a rotating saw slices a block of colour into segments and a furnace delivers streams of molten metal into channels that eventually form a network around North America. All this and the basic image of the train delivering the goods. This is a commercial that should appeal to my students and give them ideas. This is the second time I have featured the studio (18th May) so thanks. I also like, by the way, their ad for Coca Cola, “Fall”, with its carnival atmosphere and colourful use of text and a collage of images.

Saturday, 9 June 2007

Andrei Bakhurin “The Black and White"

The 6th Torino Flash Festival awarded first prize to the Russian animator Andrei Bakhurin. He is from the very talented stable of animators whose work is presented on http://www.scary.ru. All their work is distinctive and often macabre. I love the muted colours and the touches of dark humour that permeate their animations. They are peopled by strange creations set in distorted perspectives and landscapes. For my British eyes there is something mysterious, atmospheric and different about them. The winning movie “The Black and White” is typical in this respect. What goes on behind the ticking clock and intensity of the chess players? Here the contestants' dark world of misdeeds and slaughter are revealed as the chessboard comes alive. There is a humour here, no doubt of that. The Queen plants a bright red rose into the skull of one of her supporters - perhaps the Rook - and the poor guy is unable to manouvre his hands to extract it due to his bulky build and the placement of his arms. Then there is the pram that is released when the nurse is slaughtered and careers out of control onto the battlefield (board). There is, of course, a sting in the tail as, if I remember my chess sufficiently well, sacrifices and deception are all part of the game. Gory business chess.
Good news. Joey Jones has been in touch about his interview with Gareth Bowden. "Little Red Plane" just oozes quality and he is a thoroughly nice guy as well. We are presently busy at school installing new computers and server so the website has had to wait a bit for the updates that are there waiting, including three interviews and some new movies by our talented year 10 students. This blog is more immediate thankfully.

Friday, 8 June 2007

Dik Jarman

This is the eleventh 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. Adam's will be posted there next week.

Adam Fadra interviews Dik Jarman

You are quoted as having spent two years making "Dad's Clock". Was this your full time job at the time or was it produced in your spare time?
It was my full time job from about ten in the morning to midnight seven days a week for around 18 months. I originally took two months off work to write and storyboard the production for the application of funds from my job as an architect.

Why did you decide to use this abstract style for making the film?
By having the entire story told verbally by a narrator I was able to make the imagery as poetic as I wanted without fear of the audience misunderstanding it.

Dad’s Clock is a tale of internal feelings and about lack of communication between two people and unspoken emotions. I felt that using words and literal images alone were not enough to reveal the complex emotions of the tale. By abstracting the images I could focus in on what I felt was important in the story, and omit that which was not. I often describe it as “building outside that which is felt and understood within.”

I chose to use timber as it was the material Dad used to make the clock out of, so I was continuing the material of his choice. My ability to use timber in the first place was something I learnt from my father by holding the one end of the plank when he was working on the other. It showed in a Production Design fashion my connection and inheritance from my father whilst the text spoke about my distance. I felt it added to the complexity of the tale in this way.

I read that you made a thousand moving pieces and 22,000 images during the making of this movie. I sit at a computer and create my animations there. Practically speaking what did making your movie involve?
Puppet animation differs from computer animation in a number of ways, but the most fascinating for me is that stop-mo is a linear process. That is once I start animating a scene, it is a performance, a dance if you like, the puppet and me. If the puppet is having a bad day (like a dodgy knee) then it makes it hard for me. If I am having a bad day I have to try very hard for it to not affect my performance with the puppet.

In computer animation, like drawn animation, you continuously test, tweak, change, add, until you are happy with the scene. It is non-linear animation and I don’t enjoy it due to its lack of risk and element of performance. It feels more like process than art.

Making the movie involved designing and building all the sets which took the most time, (around a year all up). Animating was fairly simple as they were puppets which only requiring moving limbs, rocking the boat, etc, with no sculpting required to achieve expressions as there is in claymation.

For me to do a frame of animation, typically I would go under the set to operate the 8 car jacks that provided the rocking motion for the boat, then climb a ladder to turn two axles which turned 180 cogs that moved the timber waves a bit, then move the puppet a bit, and that was a frame. I shot 25 frames per second as it was made for Australian television.

Am I right in saying that you used a stop-start motion capture technique, if so did you make your own characters?
The film is all stop motion animation.

I made the puppet of my father all by myself with the exception of his glasses and shoulder blades which were made by armature specialist Scott Ebdon, and his beanie which was knitted by my mother. The puppet is all timber and brass.

The hero bird was assembled to my design by Scott Ebdon from brass, aluminium and an old clock that used to be in my father’s workshop. His beak is an old ink pen from my father’s compass set which he bought when he started to study for architecture in 1946. I chose it to represent me as it shows where my head is at; architecture.

I made my brother birds, with each of their beaks also representing their trade, a file for a builder, forceps for the doctor, and a quill for my brother the lawyer.

Did you do the narration yourself? Did you write this first or do the movie first?

I always record the voice first as it gives a lot of information as to how the characters should react and at what times. I had a veteran Australian actor, Barry Otto, do the voice. I originally had thought of having someone my age (32 at the time) do the voice over but could not find anyone with a voice that I liked.

When I found out Barry was available I was very excited because his voice is so lovely, it has a softness to it which echoed the fragility of the story. It also added to the story as it was the tale of a young man about an old man, told by the young man when he himself was old, so it gave a kind of circularity to it. Also, I didn’t want the voice over to be too dominant as sometimes narrators seem to be like the voice of unquestionable authority which I didn’t want, I wanted the audience to make up their own mind as to the reality of the story.

This is a bit of a personal question but why did you decide to capture the memory of the latter part of your father's life in the form of animation?
Simply I am an animator. If I was a painter I would have painted him. I think it is very odd that some people think that some stories are better or worse for animation, and irrelevant.

I was hesitant in telling the story at all at first as I felt that it was almost cliché having a man dying building a timber clock, but I was convinced by friends that it was a worthwhile story to pursue.

What were the feelings of your family when they viewed the movie for the first time?
I sent my family the script before I made for comment and received only some minor factual changes regarding dates from my mother.

Once complete, I showed each of my brothers the film separately and they each provided their own additional input to the story that I did not know. It is very much my version of the story as they each have different memories and relationships with him as mentioned in the film. I believe they all approve of the film.

You admit yourself that the film is produced in the form of metaphor. How true were details of your relationship with your father?
The words spoken by the narrator are true of how I felt as a child and a young man. I did feel like a “replacement” to my brother at times but whether that is true from my parent’s point of view is another matter and unknown.

Metaphorically it is completely true. I, of course, am not a bird, but my position to him during this time was exactly that. I could come and go from the house as I pleased, and my presence there helped, but I couldn’t save him from his ship going down.

At school I am doing an animation course using Flash and I was wondering if you used any software during the making of this film?
I used Adobe Photoshop to touch up images, Adobe Affects Pro to do my compositing, and Adobe Premiere to edit and assemble the film itself. This was all on a pc. I used an old Amiga 2000 computer with frame capturing software to watch the animation as I made it.

Is this the film you are most proud of making? Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
It is indeed the film that I am most proud of making, I am very happy with it and it’s successes and affect on people.

There are some edits in the film that I do not like and if I had more time I would have reshot them. (In particular when the bird is helping Dad on the boat with the cog. I find that sequence awkward and would do it differently if i had the chance.) Also when the boat opens some of the ribs shudder too much for my liking, it looks like bad animation to me.

You are described as being in the process of making a puppet series of animations. Could you provide any further information about this?
No.

Can you see yourself, in the future, expanding and going into independent feature length film-making?
Yes.

How did you decide that you wanted to go into animation and film making for a career? For most people being an architect would be challenging enough.
Architecture is challenging enough and it sometimes drives me crazy. Not by the art itself but by being limited by people not wanting to do something different.

In animation difference is celebrated.

I am also in charge of the story in animation (typically) not just designing the sets as in architecture and I have stories to tell.

Have you seen any other Australian animators that you like and can recommend?
Plenty, we are very lucky here in Australia. A quick list would be:
· Southern Ladies Animation Group (SLAG) “It’s like that” a tale about children in refugee camps in Australia
· Adam Elliot “Harvey Krumpett” (recent Oscar winner), “Brother”, “Uncle”
· Tony Lawrence - “Plasmo”; stop-mo sci fi series
· Nick Donkin – “A Junkies Christmas”
· And the work from the school of animation at RMIT Victoria called AIM.

My final question is not a question but "Dad's Clock" was a fantastic tribute to your father. You should be proud.
Thank you, I am. And thanks for the interest.


Dad's Clock may be viewed at: Zed CBC Television
It was featured last year as our Movie of the Week 51 on our Website













Thursday, 7 June 2007

Ilias Sounas "Circle of Life" & "Space Alone"

Ilias Sounas is a Greek animator and illustrator who uses Flash in an distinctive manner. His animation “Circle of Life” won the Realtime Film Festival last year. The background is turquoise and the figure of the boy (and then man) striding through life is obviously cartoony. Yet the use of symbols, simple graphics and text that float onto the stage is classy. Space Alone is his latest work and is a story of an astronaut sent to find life on a planet or moon. He does but then realises how much he needs a companion rather than travelling the stars alone. Some of the visual perspectives Ilias uses are pleasing such as the use of split screens and the tilted landscapes. I also like the colour schemes with its soft blues of space. He did not win the top award at the 6th Torino Flash Festival about which I had intended to write (still do) but I like his work very much. So much in fact that I have been distracted. His animation work has the clarity of really crafted work. Ilias has his own blog - http://sounasdesign.blogspot.com/ from which we discover he is an illustrator, 2D Animator and chief editor of "Grafistas+web design" magazine. His website is http://www.sounasdesign.com/mainsite.htm where you can see all his work. His illustrations are lovely and bright. But then, so is Greece!

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Toondra Animation Company


One of the most successful animation used in our class in the past two years has been the Russian studio Toondra’s marvellous Leningrad. This 2004 music video for the group of that name is rather adult in nature for our students but they have treated it most sensibly in all sorts of written responses. It also has so much to teach about the use of Flash to create dynamic movies. It has been most influential. Of course it is helped by the popularity of the music with the lead singer bawling into his microphone and screen equivalent of the dictator high on the podium ranting at his soldiers and supporters. We have had lots of discussions about the use of the Flash medium for the purposes of satire. The studio's music video for "Skafandr" is similarly adult in part but I sometimes long for my students to break away from the realism of film and take advantage of the Flash software and use diagrams, text, photographs, video and all those graphic tools available with the package. At times watching this movie, with its diagrams for the Moscow underground and various traffic and public information symbols, is like being immersed in a website. There are lots of other animations on the site, though I don't want this Santa delivering my presents in December.

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Plates Animation

Plates Animation is an excellent professional studio based in Toronto producing commercials and music videos. Mudvayne's "Fall into sleep" for example is a lively affair as are a number of rap artists covered here - not particularly to my tastes but I'm outnumbered quite substantially.

Monday, 4 June 2007

Goo-Shun Wang "Hallucii" & Dik Jarman "Dad's Clock"

Our last Controlled Test animation was on the theme of Mobius Strip, a continous loop from which there is no escape. Well Goo-Shun Wang has taken this concept and demonstrated just what may ensue when a person drinks too much, especially on a rather complex network of stairs. "Hallucii" lasts about 3.5 minutes and is a visual pleasure for anyone who likes mazes or puzzles. Goo-Shun is a student at the School of Visual Arts in New York. A word of praise too for the music composed by Wei-San Hsu and played most delightfully on the clarinet by Ti Huang. For those of our students who ask about software it was created using Photoshop, Maya, and Adobe AfterEffects. This is a very clever movie and possessing of a most interesting twist at the end. I am delighted also by the website which has information and screenshots:
http://www2.sva.edu/~gooshun/hallucii/about/about.htm.
As some of my departing year 11 students have expressed an interest in conducting an interview (after their examinations) may I point out Goo-Shun Wang as highly suitable!
And on the subject of interviews Dik Jarman has responded to Adam Fadra's request and his detailed replies to Adam's probing questions will be posted here soon, certainly by the weekend. Dik created one of the most moving and complex animated movies I have seen in a tribute to his father. "Dad's Clock" tells the story of his father's last days as he constructs a clock lovingly made out of wood. I count our students most fortunate to have obtained such a response from a very busy and talented man - Dik is an architect. In making the movie he made 22,000 images and over 1000 moving pieces. You can view his movie via the following link to Zed CBC Television and I promise you a distinctive, utterly personal experience.

Sunday, 3 June 2007

Till Nowak

This is the tenth 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. James' will be posted there next week.

James Cooper interviews Till Nowak

Imagine you had to summarise the essential meaning of "Delivery" in a short sentence what would it say?
DELIVERY is the expression of my feeling of powerlessness in a polluted and corrupt world and about the importance of everyone’s individual decision on the way to the utopia of a major change. Well, but it's an utopia - which means it’s an abstract hope, like a dream...

We see a lot of animations from the USA but not from Germany? Are there any animators we are missing and is animation a major interest, either commercial or recreational, in your country?
Yes there are. Of course as a German I see many German animations and there are definitely some highlights: check out the two oscar nominated stop motion shorts "The Wheel" ("Das Rad") and "Balance", which is a little older. To mention just some highlights of the last 2 years check out "Our man in nirvana" from Jan Köster, "Mr. Schwartz, Mr. Hazen and Mr. Horlocker" from Stefan Müller, "458nm" by T. Weber, J. Bitzer and I. Brunck and many many others I can not remember right now. But in fact there is a lot going on with animation in Germany. We even have several animated feature films produced in Germany every year.

Looking back, are there any changes you would like to make to Delivery? If so, what are they?
I think I would have made the music in the final climax, when the giant flower appears, less drippy and a little less dramatic. For me this moment is a bit too much "Hollywood emotions." And of course there are many small things, but I got used to them like to the individual aspects of any human.

"Delivery" is a remarkable movie for one person to make - many similar quality movies we see in class are made by teams of people. You changed career to work freelance. You say you are happier working alone but can you create the sort of work you wish single-handedly? For example a major feature animation?
It's difficult to find a way somewhere between being an artist or being a manager. Until now I absolutely enjoyed the freedom to work like an artist, not to share my canvas with anybody, have the full control over my vision and work very effectively without having to discuss anything with anybody. But on the other hand I know that I will change this attitude one day for the possibility of bigger projects. This doesn't mean that I am not able to work in teams, I did this often in my commercial productions or at university, it's just a deliberate decision regarding my personal independent productions. And I first want to experience every aspect of a production on my own, because after I made my own experience in every part like music, lighting, animation, design, etc. I can begin to give away more and more responsibility. For example DELIVERY was the first production where I didn't produce the music on my own, so this is a first step to including other people.

Do think that anyone can learn to be an animator, or do you think that you have to be born with a bit of creativity in you?
I think anyone can learn it, but it definitely makes it easier the earlier you start. I didn't have anything to do with animation for many years when I turned 16 and made my first steps with CGI. But then - after a couple of years - I realized that I had done many stop motion films when I was 5-8 years old, with a camera my father gave me. I had forgotten that I played with the camera so much as a child, but now I am sure that this already was the root of my today's work.

Did you see any other animations that inspired you to do this animation?
No, not specifically. I was always extremely impressed by live action films so I think the mood and camera work in my animation is based on live action films, not on animations. For example Terry Gilliam, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, David Fincher, Ridley Scott, Charles Chaplin or Jacques Tati are some of my favorite Directors. They all have a great sense for design and the mood I love - I would call it the "twilight mood".


Does your style of work and ability to create an entirely futuristic world lend itself more to science fiction than everyday life?
Maybe what you see in such futuristic and crazy visual ideas are just the thoughts and feelings of people in everyday life. I mean, I love Star Wars and other science fiction films, but for my own stories and designs I think there is always a relationship to the world I live in.


We have just completed our own satire animations. Your movie is a satire about destroying the worst effects of industrialization. What other targets for your "attacks" might you choose?
I am not sure if my work must be satire or social criticism, but on the other hand I am thinking about topics like war and weapons, megalomania and colliding aspects of our world and fantasies in general.

What was the most difficult effect to create in the whole movie?
The old man was the first character I ever animated, so this was the most difficult part. The moment when the city is shifted off the ground was also a bit difficult, but overall nothing is as difficult as finding a good story to tell.

The background music was very important. Can you tell me something about it?
When I began the production I thought I could use some existing classical music, but I realised soon that there was no way around music specifically produced for the short film. Luckily I made contact with the brothers Andreas and Matthias Hornschuh and they were amazed with the first pictures I showed them. They started to work on an exactly timed animatic so they could match their work exactly to my editing.


I have seen other shorter animations by you as well as your reel. Some of them are almost real. What can animation do that film cannot?
Animation is much more flexible and easier to manage, especially when we are talking about scenes heavily loaded with effects, but on the other hand I still love the flair of real built models like in the old Star Wars or Alien movies. For me the most powerful aspect of animation is that there is almost nothing between my brain and the result - I can realize it directly without needing millions of dollars or people. It's again one of these difficult decisions, because both sides have strong and weak points.


How do you view the main character? Was the man doing a good deed or evil when he changed the world?
I hope it's obvious that the man is not evil. It was important for me to make clear that nobody gets harmed and no destruction happens to the city, but - as I mentioned - it's a utopia and a metaphor which includes that "good" or "evil" is not often that easy in our real world.


What do you think are the best aspects of your animation style?
To me it's important to feel the "air" in the digital space. I like things like noise, flicker, dirt, fog, blooming or scratches to achieve a rough and organic impression of the visuals. In my personal impression many animations are too clean and too sterile. From a technical point of view the best aspect may be the effectiveness of my workflows. I have developed some very strange and cheaty workflows which are far away from the professional 3D techniques, but for me this was the key to free my ideas. Hopefully I will be able to publish a step-by-step-tutorial about this on my website soon.


Projecting into the future ten years from now, what do you expect to be doing?
That's what I ask myself every day. After working for creative agencies for the last 7 years and the changes DELIVERY brought to my life I see myself now searching for new orientation. I am very passionate about thrilling and emotional feature films for cinema and on the other hand I want to do more free and stylish media art like experimental films or video installations.


Your style seems to us very suitable for television commercials. Is this a road you wish to travel?
After many years working for the advertising industry I am hoping to get a couple of years now without trying to sell any product in any supermarket. I would love it more to see my style in music videos for example.


Your English is excellent. How much does your work require you to speak the language?
All the research and communication in the internet made me use written English almost every day, but the best practice for my English came through all the travelling to film festivals during the last years. And on the other hand you may only THINK my English is good because my girlfriend always corrects my interviews - she was living in London for a while.

Thanks a lot for your interest and all the best for your animated dreams!

Till's website is http://www.framebox.de/
His work has been previewed on our Movie of the Week

Saturday, 2 June 2007

"Calvin and the Dragon" by Ben Alexander and Nils Gleissenberger

Ben Alexander and Nils Gleissenberger are two students at Monash University, Melbourne, whose three minute movie "Calvin and the Dragon" is an exciting version of St George and the Dragon set in a castle. The story is simple: boy knight advances on dragon's secret treasure trove when dragon arrives like some kind of armoured tank, bulldozing through the walls. There then ensues a battle royal with a kind of cliff-hanging conclusion. It's all done to some heavy metal music and is in vibrant 3D. You can download the movie at the guys' website: http://neongod.waterscape.cc/calvinandthedragon/index.html. Interestingly for our own students the site includes all sorts of information showing how the movie developed including the original storyboards. There is even some of their own merchandise on offer and I like their site logo. There are scenes here that are extraordinary such as the moment when the dragon launches his vapour and the knight's shield is reddened.

Friday, 1 June 2007

Aidan Gibbons

Aidan Gibbons
This is the ninth 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. Liam's will be posted there next week.

Liam Oades interviews Aidan Gibbons

First of all, what first got you into animation?
I've had a passion for animation and visual effects since I was a young boy. When I was about 15 (part time and over summer), I started working as a runner in my Uncle's Graphic Design, Dynamo in Dublin. I started using Photoshop and Illustrator and getting my head around how 2D logos are made. I then started to learn Flash which is primarily a website software but also a great 2D animation tool. Then, one of the employees started to use a 3D package to animate television commercials. Suddenly, the whole world of animation and visual effects opened up for me. I began to animate and create things in 3D and animate them in 3 dimensions. The possibilities were endless. It was then that I began to realise that this hobby of mine was what I wanted to do for a living. I wanted to study this in University and possibly work on television commercials or even films. So when I was 18, I finished my Irish exams and went to the UK, to the University of Hertfordshire. I did this because Ireland did not have much to offer in terms of digital animation. I made 'The Piano' in my second year of my course.

Roughly how long did it take you to complete "The Piano"? Did you have time for a social life?
'The Piano' was basically one of four modules in my 2nd year at Herts. I made the entire film from initial sketches to final product over a 5 month period. I mainly worked from home and worked 7 days a week, 10-12 hours a day. I still somehow found time for a social life however!

Obviously you are not an elderly man so where did your idea come from to show his life through flashbacks at the piano?
The idea for the film came purely by coincidence. I was actually listening to the 'Amelie' soundtrack. I don't know if you aware, but the music in 'The Piano' that is given to teachers across the UK does not have the original music on it. The original music is actually a song called 'Comtine D'Une Ature Ete' by Yann Tiersen, who made the music for the French film, Amelie. The original film with the original music can be downloaded from my site. Basically, the dept. of Education was not able to attain rights for the music so they had similar music composed instead. Whilst listening to Yann Tiersen's track, the whole story just unravelled in my mind! The music just screamed out the theme of reminiscing, reflections and retrospection. I also have a grandfather who lives alone but was in the Army so this was a big inspiration too.

In your animation the movement of the fingers on the piano matches the music. How did you achieve this feat?
If you are watching the original film (found on my site), then the fingers match perfectly. In fact if you play those exact keys, you will be playing Yann Tiersen's song. The Dept. of Education version does not match perfectly. In any case, I simply filmed my sister play the sheet music to Yann's song and used that as a reference for each finger movement… quite a laborious task!

The movie has three main events – the man's wife, his dying comrade and the grandson. Had you had the time what other scenes might you have added?
Good question! I think even if I had the time, I would not include another event. I simply feel that three is enough and if I went on and on, then it might lose its magic. Short and sweet!

If you had a chance to do "The Piano" again is there anything you would do differently?
Yes definitely. The Piano was the first bit of real animation I've ever done but I am not happy with the animation standard. I've learnt a lot since then, so If I could go back I would definitely work on the animation and maybe clean up the models and environment too.

What does the music add to the animation and how did you find it?
Well, like I said earlier, the music inspired me so without it, the film wouldn't exist! It is a track on the Amelie Soundtrack.

Why did you set the war scene in such a minimal setting – a wall?
There's two reasons for this. The first reason for this was because I wanted to keep it simple. I wanted to tell a story and not get caught up in huge and intricate environments. The second reason is purely practical – since I only had roughly 3 weeks to model everything, modelling just a single wall fitted into my schedule very well.

We have had a lot of animators from the USA describing their training in our interviews. Could you tell me something about your own university course and training?
I went to University in Hertfordshire and attended the 3 year BA(HONS) degree in Digital Animation. The course was very intensive throughout. The first year was all about learning the 3D software (3d studio Max) and also life drawing and painting. The second year involved taking the skills we learned in the first year and applying them to our first short film. This film was really meant to be a test run for our final film in 3rd year. We were taught about directing and cinematography also. Our final year involved making our final year film, writing a dissertation and learning more about film directing and cinematography.

This is a related question to the previous one. "The Piano" clearly required a lot of work. How much freedom, time and support did you have at university to create it?
I had a lot of freedom in fact. I think I went in only 2 days a week. We did have workshops but I preferred working from home in peace and quiet. We always had the workshops to raise any questions or problems we had during the course of making the film

I understand that the movie is to be distributed to schools? What can students learn from it and has it changed your career plans?
I believe the film has already been distributed across the UK. I hope that the film might inspire students to do their own animations. I also think that it could be a good tool for literacy and storytelling. To be honest I'm just happy if students just like watching the film! The success of the film has helped I think with my career. It spurred me on to do more and work harder.

Are there any differences between the ways your personal or professional animations are made? Can commercials be works of art?
There's not many differences. The main difference is that in commercials, we tend to work in a group of 2-6 people. Yes, we do use different software but it's all the same techniques really. I do think commercials can be works of art. I think it's a great way of getting your creativity out to the public. British commercials are becoming more and more diverse and imaginative to the point where sometimes you don't even know what product was advertised! I am still working on my own stuff in my free time however.

Is your professional work all you or is it a team effort?
I rarely work on my own on a commercial, it's usually in a team of 2-6 people.

Do you think that you have to be a talented artist to be an animator?
I think that if you have a good imagination and are very observant of the world around you, then you have a good grounding to be an animator. I can't actually draw very well myself, I don't think it's a big necessity.

Are there any animators that you admire or who influence you?
John Lasseter, Chuck Jones and Nick Park are very big animation influences for me. Also film directors such as David Fincher, Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson, Spike Jones, Jonathan Glazer and Dante Ariola are big inspirations.

We see a lot of foreign animations in our course. How big is animation in the UK?
Animation in the UK is pretty big. There's an increasing number of animation degrees coming out of the UK. London has a very large animation industry. Not just 'pure' toy-story-like animation, but animation in games, films and commercials.

Have you got anything interesting in the works at the moment?
I'm currently working on a Guinness commercial which is really creative and I think it's going to look great when it's finished. I'm also working on a script for a new short film.

Thanks for your help in answering all my questions.
Thank you for the interest! I've been more than happy to take part in your interview and help out in any way I can. Keep up the great work Liam.

Aidan’s ’s website is http://www.aidangibbons.com/
His work is previewed on our website