‘Motion of Animation’ (2015) Reflection

The project began with a struggle to come up with ideas, then choosing and committing to just one of them. Then proceeded directly onto the challenge of using new software, Maya 2016, which I was determined to learn as it is the industry standard in the animation world at the moment.

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Maya has a complexity that allows for limitless creation and customization, and once you’ve puzzled out how it works you can create almost anything. However it adds a new level of difficulty unlike software such as Cinema4D which I used for ‘Bumble’ (2015), a previous project for MEDA. After several months of relearning each step of the animation pipeline in maya, I was finally able to create a full short animation using the new software.

Render test using Pixar’s Renderman

(another learning curve, figuring out how to use the rending software and it’s subtitles, in particular noise reduction, optimizing render time and adjusting for linear light rendering in post-production)

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Whale visualisation render to test animation flow and camera movement.

Eagle visualisation render to test animation flow and camera movement.

 

Creating the zoetrope was quite a mission. Not being terribly crafty myself, my original idea was to get a few old bike wheels and somehow mount them to spin horizontally on a table. Eventually I employed the help of a more handyman inclined friend to aid the zoetrope construction and together created something more aesthetic and structurally sound. I hoped to make two or three zoetropes, but underestimated the amount of time that would be needed for such a venture.

Crafting the zoetrope

I printed out every second frame from a 32 frame looping animation of a simple eagle fly cycle and whale swim cycle, combining both onto one zoetrope as I hadn’t the resources to craft two. In retrospect I probably could’ve printed out every 3rd or even 4th frame, and created a slightly less smooth, but longer and more interesting animation loop. Perhaps of the two chaacters interacting or playing with a toy such as a ball, or something that related more closely to the final animations being played on the screens behind where the zoetrope was to be situated.

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Installation in the gallery revealed a need for some kind of structure to make the zoetrope eye level so older, less limber, viewers could enjoy the zoetrope without struggling to get down to the right eye-level to look through the slits. Another consideration was making it stable enough not to go flying off the table when someone spins it.

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However it’s situation beneath the two slick TV screens with the full maya animations created a nice juxtaposition of the old and the new. The old animation machine providing a way to understand how single frames come together to create a seemless and alive picture, whilst the final product plays above made using the animation industry standard software used in the latest animated films. The two came together to create a snapshot of the history and progress of animation.

However, in the end the zoetrope was removed from the exhibition, a disappointing end to the project.

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It was nice using the same location in the gallery space as the previous Meda project. Having the same space and recurring themes of showing the process of animation, and depicting the natural movement and lives of animals, created a lovely connection to earlier works, giving a sense of a practice, slowly advancing and developing as I learn more, and create more.

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Eagle test animation

Went through a similar process as the whale (see previous post) to create an animation of an eagle flying.

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visualisation render to test animation

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Played around with dual cameras and extra wide resolutions to try and create a video that would fit nicely onto the two side-by-side screens in the gallery foyer where the animation is to be situated.

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Whale Test Animation

Using new software for this project proved to be a challenge. Maya, the animation industry standard software, has a complexity that allows for limitless creation and customization, once you’ve puzzled out how it works you can create almost anything. However it adds a level of difficulty unlike simpler software such as Cinema4D which I used for ‘Bumble’ (2015), a previous project for MEDA. After several months of learning each step of the animation pipeline in maya, I was finally able to create a full short animation.

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Began the process by modeling a simple whale; then texturing, lighting and rigging it up before finally animating it.

 

Rendering was also a challenge, taking on using Pixar’s Renderman software to generate each frame. Learning the subtleties of the renderer added more time to the process.

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Played around with creating schools of fish. The process of which went something like this:

  • model fish
  • create swim cycle using sine curve displacer with the offset attribute key framed so it can loop
  • create animation snapshot
  • draw curve path
  • create curve flow effect, adjust so particles behave like fish
  • face fish forwards along x axis and freeze transformations
  • instance fish into curve flow, making sure to sequence snapshot cycle and add velocity as rotational aim direction
  • hope everything works

visualisation render to test animation

Building a Zoetrope

Creating the zoetrope was quite a mission.

The first iteration was a simple cardboard model to test the idea:

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Not being terribly crafty myself, my second idea was to get a few old bike wheels and somehow mount them to spin horizontally on a table.

Eventually I employed the help of a more handyman inclined friend to aid the zoetrope construction and together created something more aesthetic and structurally sound. I hoped to make two or three zoetropes, but underestimated the amount of time that would be needed for such a venture.

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Maker Workshop Week 4: Zoetrope

1) A piece of academic reading or research that informs the work you are doing:

‘The Art of Walt Disney’ by Christopher Finch gives a lovely outline of Walt Disney’s career and company, from a small ‘Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio’ in 1923, to the huge media empire it has become today.

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Finch outlines the stages of animation, and how the medium was transformed under Walt’s determination and passion, where characters can alive in comedies, full of personality and entertainment. Later the innovation of sound effects and music scores added a whole new layer to animation, a new dimension of entertainment, comedy and affect was imbued into the medium. Colour was also introduced using the three stage technocolour process to which Disney had exclusive rights for a while, his studio leading the way in state-of-the art animations.

From cartoons Walt expanded into full-length feature films, the first ambitious project being ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarves’, it’s popularity paving the way for many more feature films, such as ‘The Lion King’.

Later the merger of Walt Disney Company with Pixar Animation Studios, led to new advancements in the world of animation. With Pixar’s innovation in the field of 3D animation, led by John Lasseter and Ed Catmull, along with their ability to craft great stories that tug at the heartstrings, films such as Luxo Jr (first full 3D cgi animation), Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, Monster’s Inc, Finding Nemo and many more.

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2) Some research on a contemporary work or artist that informs the work you are doing.

Glen Keane is a brilliant character animator famous for his work at Walt Disney Animation Studios on films such as The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, Pocahontas,Tarzan, and Tangled. For his contribution to the field of animation he was awarded the Winsor McCay award in 2007, and has been named a ‘Disney Legend’ (2013).

Some animations and concept art by Keane:

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His latest short film, ‘Duet’:

3) A experiment or iteration of the work/techniques/or practice that you are engaged in.

Attempted the creation of a zoetrope showing a simple bouncing ball animation.

To make a clean professional one that works smoothly will take a few iterations, better materials, and more practice.

Question of how to mount them in the installation, and how to make them sturdy enough to hold up to a large number of users.

Hope to try the next one using frames from a 3D animation (maybe ‘bumble’) to see if printing them out and assembling them will work smoothly.

Major Project Ideas

Idea 1: ‘Celebrating Movement’

A series of short (>30sec) animations of different animals displayed simultaneously across multiple screens / projectors. Beneath which are accompanying zoetropes, showing the movement frame-by-frame.

Aims:

  • Celebrate animation and the beauty of movement
  • show the process of animation
  • give understanding of how still images can come together to form films, and come alive

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Possible animations:

  • Eagle soaring
  • Horse frolicking
  • Human sprinting
  • Dog playing
  • Cat sleeping / yawning
  • Bull bucking
  • walrus / whale swimming

3D zoetrope:

Pixar animator Warren Trezevant describes “I think that the zoetrope is the clearest explanation of animation, because on the disk, you get to see every frame of animation before the current frame where you’re looking, and every frame of animation afterwards.”

Percievable problems:

  • 3D zoetrope requires strobe light flickering at appropriate speed
  • expensive / hard to print 3D
  • alignment of zoetropes, how to build? Probably require lots of testing / iterations

Perhaps 2D zoetrope better? – Audience gets to spin it, manipulate speed, go backwards, and really interact with the animation.


Idea 2: Dimensions of Animation

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A series of screens lined up, where a characer travels from one to another. Each screen represents a different style of animation, the first ‘1D’ animation or stickfigures, then 2D animation, 3D animation and finally 4D animation.

4D animation could perhaps be full 3D animation with 3D glasses.

Could perhaps include a 5th dimension, maybe just static, or perhaps trippy abstract animation similar to this sccene from popular cartoon series ‘Rick and Morty’:


Idea 3: Linear Animation or Looping Animation (similar to ‘Bumble’ from last semester)

Possible Story Ideas:

Idea 1: Worm trying to escape from chicken

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chicken storyboard

Idea 2: The Blue Flamingo

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Maker Workshop Week 3: Concept Art

1) A piece of academic reading or research that informs the work you are doing:

Children’s Books:

Read several children’s books for story ideas and style inspiration and discovered they have a large amount in common with animation, as both are mediums that focus on visual storytelling.

Animator Kelly Light outlines it nicely, explaining “both mediums have “a BIG sense of humor, a drawing quality that can only be described as “alive”, characters with personalities that are clear and jump off of the page, agile storytelling and pacing and it tends to be a little quirky… in the end, we are all storytellers, no matter the style”

Leaf by Stephen Michael King is unique in that it has no words, just ‘sound effects’ and illustrations, relying on visuals alone to tell a story.

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Children’s book stories are simple, often repetitive, but effective and heart-warming, such as in the children’s classic ‘Guess How Much I Love You’ by Sam McBratney and illustrated by Anita Jeram.

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“The principals that are taught in animation are principals that can apply to all visual storytelling”, some of which include “clear posing and expression of the character, staging (composition), color, lighting and movement.”

CLAIRE KEANE

Visual Development Artist at Walt Disney Animation Studios (Tangled, Frozen) and a Children’s Book Author/Illustrator

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They are highly imaginative, often with a little cute twist at the end that makes you go ‘awwww’ and give a nice sense of a fulfilling story. Alison Lester’s books demonstrate this beautifully in her books.

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“In animation you really focus on ensuring things are reading clear, is everything working towards the point or mood you are trying to get at. Is the character’s pose working? Does the character’s personality get across? Does the angle of the shot fit the type of feeling that is needed for the scene? I think all of these same questions transition to children’s books or really any form of visual story telling.”

CALE ATKINSON 

Freelance Illustrator, Animator and Writer


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 Colour theory plays a huge part in children’s books, their pallette helping to convey the emotion of the scene.


Our imaginations our much more powerful than pictures on a page. Whether you are animating or illustrating, creating an emotional experience is the most important thing.

PETE OSWALD

Production Designer of the Angry Birds movie and a Children’s Book Illustrator

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2) Some research on a contemporary work or artist that informs the work you are doing.

Therese Larsson is an artist that creates works under the company name ‘Silly Beast Illustration’.

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Her colour schemes have an enchanting brilliance that gives her works a vibrancy and gorgeous sense of contrast. Her lighting flowing naturally with a lovely blend of warm and cool shades.

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She has a talent for depicting animals, both adorable and fearsome.

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3) A experiment or iteration of the work/techniques/or practice that you are engaged in.

Played around with some concept art experiments, exploring vivid colour palettes for possible animation ideas

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‘The Blue Flamingo’

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a worm trying to escape a hungry chicken