In anticipation of our upcoming mystery box project, I went on a hunt around Norwich for the cheapest place to buy certain armature supplies after watching an interesting video on YouTube by character animator Michael Parks, whose resume stretches from Robot Chicken to Pixar. His advice was to build an aluminium base and build on that first with epoxy putty for the bones and then strips of fluffy upholstery wadding wrapped in pre-wrap for joggers.

I really like the finish he’s created using the pre-wrap over the fluff, changing how tight he wound it round to give the limbs shape.

Another thing I noted was how he crafted the armature’s hands, the same way I’d been shown at the BFI Animation camp. The interesting thing he did was attached the hands by creating two hooks out of the two lengths of wire used to make the arms and poking the fingers through them before clamping them in tight with some pliers.

On my mission round Norwich, I found the cheapest place for Milliput (green grey) was Thorns for £2.50, a whole pound less than Jarolds across the road. Thorns also worked out best for pre-wrap equivalent tape in the end as Boots and Superdrug only supplied premium stock. Superdrug, however Superdrug did pick up the slack with some good cotton fluff strips in place of wadding.



Stop-Motion Exercise 2: Box Lift

Box Lift Storyboard.jpgToday’s exercise was to use some basic armatures to perform a box lift. I found it difficult to work with these particular puppets because they were so flimsy, but that might just be me trying to find excuses. The thing I found most difficult was the bending over. It seemed like his shins were touching his toes before he’d even managed to reach the box. It may have been because I stood the puppet too far from the box in the first place.

This is my first attempt. I probably put too much time into the performance at the beginning that initiated a slow work flow though out the rest of the session. I simply didn’t have enough time to execute the actual lift. What I did get though, I’m quite pleased with. However I think I may have got the posture of the back wrong as he was trying to lift it as it should have been bent forward as he raised the box. But as he drops it, I like the follow through with the head.



This ones performance is a lot shorter which is good. What’s a shame is I chose the wrong angle to shoot it from as you can’t see the puppet’s spine, but it does frame the initial performance quite well. I spent as lot of time on the swing of the arms at the beginning. However the final lift feels quite empty after all the anticipation. I should definitely have extended the duration of the lift and added a bit of time at the end to see the final position.


This one we just had fun with.


Week 5 Summary

Having my introduction to CG was very enlightening at the beginning of the week. It opened my eyes to a whole new way of animating and I’m very excited to get to grips with the finer details of Maya. I’ve been trying to work on some of my own basic sequences at home but have encountered some compatibility issues.

My narrative essay has come to a start this week as I’ve chosen to analyse Sylvian Chomet’s ‘The Old Lady & The Pigeons’. It’s a film without any (meaningful) dialogue so I’m going to be focusing on visual storytelling and narrative structure. Being a short form piece I’m going to have to look into the structure of short film narrative.

Shooting the first of 3 stop motion exercises was a lot of fun. It’s been a long time since I’ve really worked in stop motion and it’s magical to get back into. Its rare for me to work with a format so free and tactile. The bouncing ball exercise was a good start to reorient me with the format but I’m looking forward to working with armatures.

Looking at perspective in life drawing was fascinating. I was especially interested in the idea of drawing in fish-eye perspective. We were tasked with drawing the room around us and it was fun to draw things in context but also to think about what I’m really seeing rather than drawing an impression of what I’m seeing.

Sylvian Chromet’s ‘The Old Lady & The Pidgeons’

‘The Old Lady & The Pidgeons’ is a comic, surreal 20 minute animated short film directed by Sylvian Chomet. It follows the story of a poor Parisian policeman who plots to pose as a pigeon in order to be fed by a nutty old lady who’s a little too friendly with Paris’ pigeons. The film, for the most part, is without any dialogue. It’s beginning and end both feature some totally benign lines from some American tourists. Those few words in the film go to show how unnecessary dialogue can be as this film is a testament to visual storytelling.

“As the hallucinogenic drug-inspired regression sequences of his 2013 live-action film “Attila Marcel” made clear, Chomet has a gift for capturing flights of fancy.”

(John Hopewell, 2016)

Sylvain Chomet Moves Into Production on ‘The Thousand Miles’ (EXCLUSIVE)



  • Intro shows protagonist stalking American tourists dropping food all over the place. He eat’s their littered popcorn off the ground. He’s clearly hungry.
  • He stands over a man at a cafe about to eat his lunch and ogles his baguette. He’s a peculiar and hungry man. 
  • A cycle blimp passes overhead.
  • Protag walks into a park and discovers all the pigeons are ridiculously fat. They fall onto the ground like balloons. He discovers a little old lady feeding the birds enormous pastries.
  • We see the protag’s sorry apartment, ridden with roaches and leaking from the roof. He eats his evening meal; a tiny half eaten fish with a small glass of wine. 
  • There’s a wonderful transition from the fish’s bleary eye to his own.
  • The sound design here is painful; we can hear him chewing the bones of the fish and the knife sawing through them as he cuts it up.
  • He stamps on a cockroach before he slips into bed. He’s a cruel man.
  • Above his bed is a ‘Gendarmerie Nationale’ poster featuring a jolly fat man in a gleaming uniform. This contrasts him well, being a pale gaunt man in a filthy uniform.
  • As he lies in bed, the pigeons haunt him from outside the window.
  • That night he has a nightmare where he’s being fed by the old lady before being eaten by man-pigeons.
  • The next day he stalks the old lady home. On his way he passes an enormously fat dog.
  • She lives in a multistory town house apartment. There’s a crowd of pigeons round her window that have left a lot of bird poo round her window from over the years.
  • A bird falls from the crowd onto the pavement in front of the protag foreshadowing his own fate at the end of the film. He captures the bird and takes it home for his own project.He makes his pigeon disguise with the feathers from the abducted bird. The pigeons watch in awe from outside the window.
  • There’s another transition from the eye of the pigeon mask in the mirror to the peep hole in the old lady’s apartment door.
  • He enters her gleaming apartment. It’s well furnished, she has a lot of money. She sits him down at the table and hobbles into the kitchen.
  • She throws his hat onto the stand without looking. Does she entertain well to do guests frequently?
  • She brings him tea and he swipes her tea set off the table and it smashes on the floor. He points to his mouth and she returns to the kitchen.
  • He looks at a painting on the wall of an enormous roast dinner. There’s a transition from that to a rack of ribs being placed on the table.
  • He beings to feast on it while the old lady shows him a photo album full of pigeons dated from decades ago. Before she can even begin, he finishes and rudely leaves. He passes a huge fat cleaner on the stairs. Has the old lady been feeding everyone in the area? He tips his hat as he passes her. She licks between her buck teeth.
  • He gets home and dances to the beat of pigeons tapping on the window. Only in animation.
  • The time passes as the dates flick past on the calendar and he gets fatter and fatter. He now struggles to pass the fat cleaner on the stairs. The cockroaches feast on the featherless pigeon.
  • It’s christmas eve and the protag is round the old ladies and quaffing wine. She brings him cake before retreating into the kitchen.
  • As she leaves, he sees her turn into a plucked chicken.
  • He follows her in, squeezing his enormously fat body down the narrow hallway, disturbing all the paintings on the wall. He gets in and finishes a bottle of whiskey off the side and faints.
  • He gets up and peaks into another room where the old lady is sharpening some shears when an enormous fat cat comes through a back door and sits down at a dining table. The old lady begins to stroke the cat and it licks its lips, much like the cleaning lady did on the stairs.
  • He accidentally hoots on his party blower and gives himself away.
  • The old lady comes into the kitchen looking for him with the shears. The paintings are swinging on the wall in the corridor indicating his hurried escape.
  • As he struggles with the door to get out, she approaches him threateningly with the shears. He tries desperately to remove the mask but he’s too fat for it to come off.
  • He throws a bottle of wine at her head and she goes haywire. She starts darting round the room snipping at him and chases him onto the table where she snips at his feet as he dances to avoid being cut. He continues to struggle with the mask. He starts to take his shoe off to show her his foot and prove he’s a man as she makes a ladder up to him. She’s not convinced and in an effort to escape, he accidentally tips himself out the window.
  • The final sequence shows him shirtless and skinny again, pretending to be a pigeon in the street, pecking at crumbs. There is no happy ending, only some kind of justice served.

Stop Motion Exercise 1: Ball Bounce


This one spends too much time on the ground and is possibly a bit too slow.



This one is better but was supposed to fall from off screen but because I spaced it badly it just flashes out for a second. I decided to scrap the off screen idea.



This one is my favourite but looking now, it’s a tad fast on the ground. Perhaps two frames is okay for being on the floor?



This is rare footage of an armature on break.



More stupid fun.

First Steps in Maya

Today, I’ve made my first CG animated sequence of a ball bouncing. I’ve had a go at making 3D models in the past, but never put anything on the timeline. Looking at the graph editor in Maya has opened my eyes to a whole new way of animating. Despite what looks like a hideously convoluted interface, I look forward to coming to understand this new medium.

Stepping onto this course I knew that learning 3D modelling and CG animation is probably the most apply-able skill I can gain from my time here, but recently being reintroduced to stop motion animation I’m smitten. I love it with it’s simplicity, intricacy and the fact its so tactile. I much prefer the idea of spending my days here hunched over a table in the dark rather than hunched in front of monitor in the dark.


Week 4 Summary

This week saw me finishing one of my animated sketchbook ideas and leaving the other two in need of a little more development. The car driving over the bump is now complete and I’m going to leave it as is despite a small flaw at the end making the loop look odd. Robert praised me for recognising the problem but though it was best I leave it and continue working on my other animations. My self portrait is good but not progressing. I’ve inbetweened the first half of it but the laughing half is tricky to work with. I find that when I put in the inbetweens it breaks the timing and ruins the movement so I’m contemplating leaving that one as is also. The bird diving however is great and just needs to have the tie down layer drawn over.

Our session with Tine Kluth was interesting. She had a lot to say about her career and shared a few lessons in landing jobs; Number one piece of advice was to ask the crew what they’re getting paid before you sign a contract. She talked a lot about how stop motion work had been booming the last few years but she expected to see a lot of her colleagues out of work very soon. One thing I was surprised to hear was that  stop motion animators are paid far less than any CG animators. In my mind, Stop Motion was more of a specialist skill compared to people working on software but what do I know? She said any job working with your hands means less money – even if it’s working for Aardman.

Pig & Duck + Building Foam Armatures


A GIF of the animation I made with Tine Kluth’s puppets rescued from the bins outside Trikk17’s studios in Hamburg.

I was impressed with the intricate features that the pig puppet had. There was wire in its lips, ears, snout and for each individual hoof. I thought it was well rigged for a puppet that was apparently only in the background according to Tine.

For reference in the future, I found Nick Hilligoss’ guide on how to craft foam armatures so perhaps in the next unit, I can have a go at making my armature in a similar fashion to the Tine’s pig.


Animated Sketchbook: Roughs

Car Bounce

This one took a long time for me to properly draw. The basic shapes were hard to put together but it seems to work now. The rebound doesn’t work as I imagined; before I thought it would only bounce on its front wheels but that didn’t quite look right so now I have a double bounce. I will need to add the bump coming towards the car and under it before I move forward with this.


Hysterical Laugh

This one looks fantastic and I’m very pleased with it. On reflection, I can see I need to add a moment of heightened attention before he screws his face up to add anticipation to the punch line, but otherwise I will progress with this one as is.


Diving Grebe

I’ve clearly struggled with this one. I hadn’t attempted to animate this one at all before this so I think I need to spend a bit more time in the lab perfecting the motion for this one.