Thursday, March 24, 2011

New Essay Proposal

After some more in depth research, I rediscovered Paul Grimault and his film "Le Roi et L'Oiseau". At first I only saw one still of the film, and I could not remember what it was. Then I saw more and souvenirs are pouring back as this is the film of my childhood. More so than any Disney, I remember this film as being there in my earliest days.

It unique style and different influence makes it a very interesting film to look at. It is ripe with references to its time and the role Grimault played in animation history. Called the French Walt Disney, he is one of the greatest. I will focus mainly on "Le Roi et L'Oiseau", as it really is the film that defined him as a great animator.

@Phil, What should I really look at, Paul Grimault through the "Le Roi et L'Oiseau" or should I look at him through all his work. "Le Roi et L'Oiseau" seems to be such an defining film in animation history, and it means so much to me, bu I suppose I should be looking at Grimault himself.

Should I make a cultural and contextual essay on him? Or study his techniques and placement in style?

Ill do some more thinking on the subject.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

@ Phil - Essay Proposal

For the essay, I am considering for now either Milt Kahl or Art Babbitt.

I think Art Babbitt would be the most interesting as of now.

Winsor McCay is a spark of genius in animation’s history. For many years his work was seen has irreproducible by other animators, who focused on much shorter and simpler “gags”. McCay’s work was so stunning that many wondered whether he had traced photographs. McCay had not, as he had done most of the thousands of frames on his own. The lack of know techniques means that he would reproduce even the backgrounds on every frames.

His work was so impressive that no one was able to reproduce is work, most wondering how it had been done. McCay was a successful newspaper cartoon artist in New York City. His beginnings where obscure, though he is said to be born in the late 1860’s. McCay was famous for his incredible drawing ability, an ability he had even as a child. His incredible talent allowed him to be noticed early on, which threw him on the high roads of art in America.


It is during his early jobs that he developed his main technique. John Grant, in his book Masters of Animation explains how “the execution of one technique he had developed – that of doing a figure’s outline as a single line rather than piecemeal – soon proved to be a crowd pleasure.” (Grant:2001) This technique promoted the drawing of quick cartoons, which paved the way to his work as a newspaper comic artist.

His success was incredible. His ability to draw incredibly well and fast had to push him towards animation. What seemed to start as a bet turned into some of the most beautiful films of all time. Though McCay is not the inventor of animation, as this seems to belong to J. Stuart Blackton with his Humorous Phases of Funny Faces, he is the first to create intricate and highly detailed animation. He is the first to have taken it to an art form, the first to add a character with character, Gertie.

His forerunner work has been ignored and lost after his death, yet it came back to the fore and shocked everyone with its quality. Winsor McCay is the first animation genius and his career was hampered by a lack of understanding at the time. His short Sinking of the Lusitania involved 25 000 frames, and was probably the first animated propaganda film of such quality.

He uses techniques which are still use, in part, today. “McCay’s “Split System” of producing key-drawings and then inbetweening is familiar practice today” (Allan:1988) His innovations where done personally, as he had no one to teach him the ways of animation. Though he is better renown for his comic work, his animation is so stunning that anyone remotely interesting in animation should really enjoy and credit the work of a master. As John Grant concludes in his section on McCay, “The tow most important people in [the history of] animation are Winsor McCay and Walt Disney, and I’m not sure which should go first.” (Grant:2001)

Bowling Ball

I did this one on the stop motion device, so it is not as clean as a scanner shoot, but I like to try out both, and the texture and interesting frame that you get is really nice. It really looks as if the paper became alive on a desk. I really like this aspect of stop motion, whether it is on paper or with materials.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


My animatic. Sound effects not on yet. Just getting the basics done. For some reasons I have an extra minute but when it goes black it is finished.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Finally, the bouncing ball. Really annoying process of getting this here. Premiere Pro, Adobe Effect, Media Encoder + Buggy Computers = so many problems. So found some sort of system now but really annoying. The computers are really showing either age or overuse, I don't know.

My Bouncing Ball.

This was very interesting to do and showed that you always need more frames as the flight sequence is on twos, yet it is still to quick.

Spin Cycle

This is a practice to what my other character might be doing on top of the ladder. This has shown me a few things. First I need more frames, as I had to put it on 15, as 12 skiped too much and 24 was way too fast. So more frames should help. Second thing, detail really is lost in movement, so shape and volume really is more important. Simpler figures with distinct silhouettes is what I really need.

Monday, March 14, 2011

First Ladder Walk Cycle

Ok this is my first try at animating a horse/step-ladder. It show some interesting things, though I might need to do on two's as this is on one's with 12 frames so it skips a lot. So I need to either put on two's, which should be easy so ill do it, or add in-betweeners to get to 24s. It does show some kind of promise as I could improve on that quit easily, and get some perspective as well.

Using that stop motion capture system was not such a good idea for while you get quit a nice texture, it is not really precise, it skips too much and the sheets are not always perfectly aligned.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Vague Wandering - II

How can a step ladder be satisfied? It has one purpose, which is too raise people up the ground. They probably have other uses, more esoteric ones, yet it’s primary function will always be to raise people off the ground. So if a step ladder is sad, and has given up on life, someone using her would probably give her joy and happiness. The cause is as important as the effect. It is all about balance.

The cause has to be equal to the effect, if the cause is not worth it, than the effect will suffer in intensity. Jubilation is an extreme emotion. The character exults, is overwhelmed with highly vigorous happiness. It is not satisfaction at a mild level, it is an explosion of joy.

Therefore, the cause must be important. Let’s just remember that we are talking about a step ladder. Earlier, I was wondering the level of intellectual capacity a step ladder could have. Let’s make it quite simple. It has one focus, which is to be used.

So we could easily say that being not used would make her sad, and being used would make her happy. Let’s increase the intensity. She has been abandoned, cobwebs accumulating between her steps and feet, other object obstruct her. There is a strong melancholy in the scene you can see the sadness in its attitude. It is really sad.

Then it get’s used. We don’t know why, or really I don’t know yet. It could be shown that time passes quickly and it is not used.

So it is a great day for it, the man uses it, and its joy is great it jumps around and around. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Unit 5 - Vague Wandering

Jubilant is defined as being the state of satisfaction, triumph, joy, exultation, of showing great joy.

The way I interpret it is also as the result of something, which might sound obvious. Someone might be happy simply because they are happy people. Their might be some reason why they are happy, but it is a happiness that is slowly built up. For example, one wakes up in the morning to find his breakfast ready and served in bed by a loving wife. (no this is no my dream) This man will start the day happy. He then arrives to his car and finds that someone has left a heart on his dirty car (that’s more like it), his happiness is therefore increase. This could go on all day, his happiness slowly building up, until he is happy.

We could argue the same thing about different types, lets call them slow emotions, such as resentment, hate, etc.

Coming back to my interpretation of a jubilant state, I would say it is a moment emotion. Similar ones would be anger, shock, etc.

What I have already defined is that emotions do need a catalyst. The difference, on a very simplistic level, is the amount of time involved and how long it takes for the subject to start feeling it. There are multiple definitions of emotions, and even more psychological studies of it. While it is important to understand the important aspects of the main theories, its is important as well not to get lost in pointless explanations of people's opinion's. The main idea here is to clearly define jubilation and how it can fit to a certain character.

Emotions are idiosyncratic and I must therefore define the character traits of my step ladder first before I jump into avid conclusions of unnecessary value.

What is a step ladder. A step ladder is not a ladder. It's as step ladder. It has two sides. Which means it can stand on it's own. It also means that it can use four legs to travel around.

It can be tall, it can be small, yet tall seems more interesting. What could characterize a step ladder. It makes people taller, so should it be seen as a pedestal, forced to bow down to higher power? Or does it find itself arch-important, as it is required to elevate people. A step ladder is stepped on, again bringing it down. What would make a step ladder jubilant. Being used for it's purpose? Or being used for something else. Do we consider the step ladder to be an intelligent and sophisticated character, or do we assume it is idiot. Being smart would imply it should become jubilant after something of something of major interest happened to it. If it is an idiot, the simplest thing could excite him. He could simply be used by it's owner and that might be reason for exultation.

What is it's gender? Humans are the first emotional creatures. All animals have emotions, but none show it as dramatically and strongly as humans. As this is the first major animation project I have ever done, I shall make him a male. Let me justify. As I am a male, it is easier for me to understand the emotional language that comes from jubilation. The slight movement of the body, the speed of action, everything will be easier to portray on an inanimate object.

My main idea right now involves cause and effect. I do not wish to simply start the story with a jubilant ladder, that ends with a jubilant ladder. The cause should not dominate the story but it must be understood by the audience. A cycle is necessary, or at least a reason why the step ladder acts in such a manner. Whether that will be too long and arduous to include I shall see.

My work plan for now will rely on different stages. This is obviously not final as I have yet to have any tutorials which might give me a better way of working.

Here is the order of how I want to work.

  • First, start off with the character animation. A simple dual interaction, with a simple horizon line should be sufficient for the story to be clear.
  • Second, I would work on improving the characters.
  • Thirdly, add a explanatory background. The background must not overwhelm the character's interaction. The Illusion of Life by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston has some very interesting explanations on how to do that.
  • Fourthly, add more detail to the whole ensemble.
  • Finally, add colour.

All of this is based on a time frame. The first has to be completed for the second one to be done. If I am able to work in layers than I might do the background first, setting up a few shots of it, and have the characters interact as if on a stage.

This will be marvellously interesting.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

My final Animatic

Finally it is done. I wish I had spent a bit more time on higher quality drawings for it, but time was against me as I had a lot of frames to render.

Reservoir Dogs

One could expect a lot of that opening shot in the dinner. A bunch of guys sitting around a table, debating around Madonna's “Like a Virgin”, and an incredible camera work that spins around each character, even sliding behind their back to shift the attention to each other, in a way reminiscent of Hitchcock's use of the the technique in Rope when he would run out of film. The scene takes its time to unfold as we start to notice some of the characteristic of each actor. We also get a look at the incredible cast used in the film. It is not often that you get the feeling  that every actor actually fits their characters. They do not push the characters unto themselves they simply happen to be their character. They leave “emerging from the restaurant like the Wild Bunch” (McCarthy:1991), the intensity of that shot serving as an establishing shot for the rest of the film, as it is one of the last times you get to see the whole crew together. Their will be more shots later on, but the rest of the film is mainly cut in different sections that explain the personal story of each character.

What comes next might seem at first as a big mumbo jumbo of stories, linked only by the failed robbery, yet it is cleverly structured and implemented into the flow of the sequence. The sudden change in flow and rhythm occurs when we are suddenly sent into a bloodied car interior, young Mr. Orange, superbly played by Tim Roth, is panicking, his stomach pierced by a bullet. This extremely strong visual sets the tone for the rest of the film, the immaculate white of the car a perfect canvas for what might have influenced quit a few other artists. We understand that everything has gone wrong. The car is driven by a nervous and edgy Mr. White, played by Harvey Keitel. He tries to calm down the shocked Orange, who keeps shouting that he is going to die. We then arrive in the main set of the film, a warehouse. This warehouse could not be any simpler and yet is masterfully used as every bit of its space is used as space for the composition’s of the shots, it's highly geometric structure giving rise to some very interesting shots. Orange is laid down on a slight slope of triangle, giving his blood free rein over its descent towards the future puddle it is going to create.

They are soon joined by Mr. Pink, acted by Steve Buscemi. He is also highly nervous, and is convinced that the police had been tipped off by one of them. His self-induced professionalism completely cuts him out of the traitor position or so he says, constantly saying that it could not be him but that it was someone, adding to the edginess of the whole situation as White starts to loose control. The enters to recently out of jail psycho, Mr. Blonde, calmly played by Michael Madsen. He brings with him a young police officer, whom I found excessively boastful seeing the situation he was in. In a torture see of anthology the “young officer is brutally tortured,” by Mr. Blonde, “in a scene that drove numerous fest viewers from the unspooling here, and may make even the brave look away. The worst is left off-camera,” (McCarthy:1991), as most of it is implied though we still get to see the pugnacious wound of his ear later on. Some extraordinary camera work punctuates the performance as it glides effortlessly around the set, cutting when needed, giving it an edgy feel simply based on the camera and the quick editing present.

The warehouse, by its nature creates a very theatrical set. The few amazing shots when they are all pointing at each other with a gun is now a classic. The set is well designed, and as more actors enter the fray, it seems only to expand despite the increase in mass inside it. The well oiled machine of a script that Tarantino has created is full of energy and as WH from Time Out London concludes:

Despite the clockwork theatrical dynamics - most of the action is restricted to the warehouse - the film packs a massive punch.”(Time Out London)


 -Time Out London -

Blairwitch Project

Growing really does influence your perspective of the world. The first time I saw the Blairwitch Project, I was utterly terrified. Being 12 doesn't help, and watching in the dark late at time neither. Today, having thankfully grown up, I had the opportunity of watching it again. The dissapointment was to the height of my expectations. I remember when I started to re-watch the Disney classics, and being so thrilled at seeing them again with a different eye, one trained to see animation, story and plot. Even though some parts where different from what I remembered, new ones opened up for my own pleasure.

This did not happen with the Blairwitch Project. A constant strain on the eye, some annoying acting (even if it was meant to be that way) and the most disappointing story line has not helped this film really born out of an impressive ad campaign and the thrilling peer pressure found in the school yards. The incredible buzz is what helped this film more than anything. Though I was thoroughly disappointed, one must look at this film objectively. The film itself might not please anyone, but its design, added to the ad campaign was extremely effective. It was the perfect way for a film like this to succeed.

When you learn that some people actually thought this to be true, the shock is quit important. An hyper-realistic documentary justifying the whole thing truly set some minds on a weird path to witchcraft and more esoteric rituals. Turning a folk story into a real story required some important thinking, something masterfully hidden in the film. From the beginning you get the feeling that you are actually following something that really happened.

This impression is sadly lost in some moments when you really get the impression that the actors are reading a script. Their constant want to keep filming is also a bit odd, yet it is in the end essential to the success of the film.

Time Out London affirm that it stays with you: the film issues a kind of shadow horror that only comes into play later, at night, when you want to forget it.”(Time Out London: 2009). This might be true for some teenagers in search of interesting sensations, but one always reaches a point when you are simply not affected by it.

The use of a portable camera was a first. This is the main reason for the success of the film. Its indomitable will to keep to this format gets in the way of the story at some points, yet the whole illusion would be lost if we had had some aerials view, or simply some more classic cinema shots. In the end it is a successful film in the box office and in its originality. It is a pioneer and that's it. Had it been made after another of the same type, I can assure everyone it would have been a flop.


- London Time Out: http://www.timeout.comPublish Post/film/reviews/67979/the_blair_witch_project.html  


While the Blairwitch Project has had a definite influence on a large part of the population, its novel use of a personal camera for a feature film and supposedly real scenes, Cloverfield was the complete opposite. Again trying out the personal camera mode, it tries to trick the viewer into thinking that again it is real. Yet when Hollywood takes over an idea, you tend to notice it. Some have said that the more realistic you try to get with CG, the more obvious it is, and the more the audience feels tricked. Cloverfield, under its look of a cheap film is actually a multi-million dollars project, with incredible CG, a giant monster and a collapsing New York City.

How can one take a movie likes this seriously. It's lack of plausible story only adds to the pain of watching a film through a portable camera. Add in a pseudo romantic quest to save a princess lost in her high dungeon, here a New York skyscraper, and you get a “navet” as the French would say, which means a bad film. It tries to be original, doing the same intense marketing campaign as Blairwitch, yet failing to deliver in the end. It has had success, and many have gone saying that it is a metaphor for 9/11, except with a giant monster, which, I am sure is not called Godzilla simply for copyright reasons. Not to mention that obviously the main character is leaving for … ready for a big surprise? Japan! Too bad for him, Godzilla has left it's homeland, coming to New York City the day before he left. Could thing he didn't leave the day before.

Roger Erbert describes well the discrepancies found in the film.”The leaning high-rise contains Beth (Odette Yustman), who Rob feels duty-bound to rescue from her 49th-floor apartment near Central Park. The others all come along on this foolhardy mission (not explained: how after walking all the way to Columbus Circle they have the energy to climb 49 flights of stairs, Lily in her high heels). Part of their uptown journey is by subway, without the benefit of trains. They're informed by a helpful soldier that the last rescue helicopter leaving Central Park will have "wheels up at oh-six-hundred," begging the question of how many helicopters it would take to rescue the population of Manhattan. ” (Erbert:2008)

The film is successful in representing the new century. Most of the footage we see today isn't filmed by professional journalists, but by people with cell phones. Looking at the situation in the Arab world today, where most of what we see comes from these small devices, Cloverfield takes on that mantle. Is this how we would record a catastrophe of that size? Empire have their own reasoning.”Is this attack so terrifying because it has obvious shades of 9/11 or because the handheld camerawork leaves us disoriented, glimpsing the enormous creature only when Hud’s view quivers that way? It’s both. We live in a time when global violence is recorded not by professionals, but by shaky-handed bystanders with camera phones. We believe bad camerawork and suspect professional broadcast of hiding something from us. Stripped of the comfort of rhythmic editing and frenzied strings that tell us it’s time to be scared and instead served the sort of frantic footage we associate with unfathomable terror brings a new, more primal fear to the monster movie. It starts, bizarrely, to feel like something that could happen.  ” (Empire:Olly Richards)


Erbert, Robert:

Richards, Olly:

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Final Story board

 A bit messy, I will clean it if I have the time. I had to use those drawings to do the animatic, which is a bit disappointing but their really wasn't enough time to do each drawing separately, which again annoys me because the few I did in larger scale look much better. Oh well, time is of the essence so that's life.