Character research: Saxon Warriors

I started off the process looking at Saxon warriors. Inspired by some little metal figures I collected when I was younger, I realised they wore fairly primitive clothes and had some interesting simple props that could all be made fairly easily for stop motion.

Further research showed that they could also be quite colourful with stripes on their shields and vibrant robes under their chain mail.

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Although my sources may not be entirely historically accurate, they showcase the basis of a visually interesting character.

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Stop Motion Journal

Week 5:
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. It’s 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.
Week 6:
Stop Motion this week was a step up from bouncing balls to a performance using basic armatures. I was looking forward to this and felt confident about it going in but I ended up struggling with the timing. I think this may have been down to the fact I was going through the movements too fast for the framerate. I was attempting to get through my animations quickly so my partner and I could take turns. My animations suffered consequently and I would like to revisit them another time. I need to focus on the spine action and be patient with poses I need to hold.
Week 7:
This week I eventually found time to shoot my walk and change of expression. I’m particularly proud of this one. I think it looks a little bit clunky but the movements are spot on. The one thing I’m tempted to change if I get a chance to do it again is the heaving breathing after he leans over. It’s a little too fast and it could do with carrying on after he’s wiped his brow. I did manage to re-do the box lift this week however. This again I’m pleased with as I’ve improved the movement of the spine from beforehand and stayed true to my storyboard but I do think the box is a little sticky on the ground. It comes up too fast, but it’s far better than my previous attempt.
Week 8:
I’ve edited all my clips to make sure there aren’t any thimbles, rigs or hands in shot.
Summary:
It’s been great getting off the computer and working with my hands during this project. It’s really fired me up for the mystery box project coming up next. I think I struggled to get my ball bounces just right at first, getting them spaced properly was a little bit of a challenge, but my final clip is fine.
My box pick up exercise was a challenge to begin with. I was getting the posture wrong, starting the lift with the back arched backwards. Learning from ‘The animator’s survival kit’ I realized this was wrong. My second attempt was far better as the posture was now correct throughout but it spends too long anticipating the lift. When it does finally come off the ground, the action is a bit too fast and erratic. However, I do like the way it steps back and takes the weight. The performance beforehand is also good as each movement looks fluid and realistic.
Finally, my character walk and expression change is great in terms of performance, he looks like he’s just been for a run. But looking at the final clip frame by frame now, I can see that during the walk cycle, there are inconsistencies when he brings his foot forward. He doesn’t move his foot in an arc and has his foot at varying levels from frame to frame. I thing I was too pleased with the overall performance at the time to notice. This was a problem for me, being distracted by the performance side of things. I need to focus on the fundamental goal of the exercise and not get too distracted by the possibilities.

C.G. Journal

Week 5:
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.
Week 6:
I feel like I’m keeping up with the CG project and am continuing to find the graph editor an intuitive way to create movement. This week we started moving the ball on multiple axis and added an interaction. I found this fairly easy to execute, however the thing I get lost with is the loss of energy at the end and how fast or slow that should come. It’s much easier to plot that kind of thing out in the graph editor, however I think it will be a long time before I can create an aesthetic in CG that can surpass the charm of hand drawn work.
Week 7:
Doing the walk cycle this week wasn’t easy. Getting the rig into the rough positions was fine and adding little things like a sway to the hips and a nod to the head was easy. In fact, it’s wonderful how easy it is to add little nuances like that in CG compared to hand drawn work. But when things get moving, it’s very hard to stop the limbs from looking like they’re snapping into place. I spend a lot of time in the graph editor trying to iron out these little imperfections but it can be hard to read sometimes. I will have to keep coming back to this.
Week 8:
The change of expression was a lot less stressful than last week’s session. Getting everything keyframed was fine so this exercise is just a case of fine tuning everything and seeing what extra you could add to it. I’m pleased with my winking performance, but I need to tone down the chest twist.
Week 9:
I went over my walk cycle and tried to iron out a couple of bugs. I also added a little flick of the wrist as she walks which is a nice touch, but I’m not sure how to improve it beyond this despite knowing it’s not quite right.
Summary:
This project has given me a good insight into the possibilities of 3d animation and given me a starting point from which I can explore the software in more detail. Working with key frames and the graph editor is a far more logical way of animating than anything I have tried so far. My first exercise with the bouncing ball hitting the block is very good for the most part. The bounces leading up to the
impact with the block work nicely but on the rebound I’ve struggled to make the loss of energy look realistic. Before to make that work I just halved the height and distance the ball travelled until the changes became negligible but that doesn’t seem to work here. My walk cycle I based pretty well entirely off the young female walk cycle from endless reference. I think it helped me get the key poses just right and see how other parts of the body moved during the sequence. However, it wasn’t easy to get the rig’s limbs to move smoothly, and that’s probably the biggest problem I encountered during the project. The arms and legs always lock into position and I can’t seem to stop that. This is something I need to address in the future. My change of expression I’m pleased with. It’s got a lot going on in the face and it reads well to me. I like how the movement of the head is countered by movement in the shoulders and by the torso in general. The only way I think I can improve it is to just layer on more and more nuances and little bits of follow through to help it seem more complex and alive.

Narrative Research Journal

Week 4:
This week introduced us to the essay questions. I’m thinking of looking at the French stop motion film ‘Panique au Village’ for the visual storytelling question. Because I’ve never put any subtitles on, I’ve never known what the characters were saying but I never needed to because everything that was happening was explained by what was on screen. I’m not sure about my choice so we’ll see how it goes.
Week 5:
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.
Week 6:
On exploring my chosen film for the narrative project, I decided to look at the shape of the story using Kurt Vonnegut’s graph. I found that it resembled the shape of the old testament’s shape with an incremental rise in good standing before and incident and a terrible low at the end. I thought about why I thought Chomet decided to end the film like this but I’ve yet to back it up with any sources. Next I would like to look into the devices Chomet uses to propel the story without dialogue.
Week 7:
This week I took out ‘The Illusion of Life’ to look into character appeal. Chomet’s characters are an ugly bunch so I thought I should see if Disney could explain why they’re still so appealing.
Week 8:
This week I started to look at Jacques Tati as an influence of Sylvain Chomet’s after I watched ‘The Illusionist’, a film Chomet made based on a screenplay of his. Chomet takes from Tati his sense of humour and the ability to tell a story visually. Tati is a very interesting person I have found, so I’ve taken out a book on him.
Week 9:
This week I finished the essay and send it to Lynsey for a once-over. Apart from a few incorrect references, my only real problem was that I’d written it in a bit of a journalistic manor. I’ll try not to get so excited about what I’m writing about in the future.

Summary:
Researching the world of Sylvain Chomet was quite interesting as I hadn’t known about him prior to writing this essay. I found his work to be very inspiring so for that, this has been a very beneficial experience. I feel having chosen Chomet’s work as a example of visual storytelling, I’ve been given a very good insight into how visual storytelling works as cinema in its purest form.
I feel my essay could have looked at visual storytelling more directly and more in depth. There was so much that we covered in our lectures that related to what I was researching that I couldn’t fit it all in, but I’m confident that the sources that I did use were relevant. I found that I used more physical sources than before taking several books out to support my research. I also found it very hard to arrange all my points coherently and in a way that let the essay flow. I restructured my essay a number of times to ensure that I did eventually find the right order that would let me flow from point to point. I found this to be a difficult experience but I’m sure I’ve done better than last time.

Animated Sketchbook Journal

Week 1:
After Mondays workshop introducing us to this new project I have started drawing more frequently and from primary observation, keeping in mind line of action to keep my work fluid. To be able to make my animated work better I first need to get my ability to draw people in motion up to scratch.
The workshop looking at the sack of flour was a great opportunity to remind us what the 12 principles are all about and how they can be applied to our work. It was also interesting to see how emoted something so basic can be by using line of action. I struggled to translate the poses of people I had sketched before the workshop to the sack but intend to work on this in future sessions and in my own time.

Week 2:
After looking at self-portraits this week, I feel I have a couple of good ideas I’d like to move forward with. Applying a line of action in my work has made things a bit more interesting when sketching. After the blinking session, I’m slowly feeling more adept with TV Paint and I’m starting to see it as something I want to stick with in the future.

Week 3:
t started off with another look over our animated sketchbook plans before getting on with doing a rough animation of each of them. I’ve started my idea of a car driving over a bump. Robert spoke to me and reminded me that I should only rough out the extremes of the movement before spending a lot of time drawing any in-betweens that don’t fit. I will remember to do this with the other two also.
We also discussed the fact I was partly referencing footage from a film, which certainly isn’t primary observation. Robert said this isn’t a problem if the movement is something I feel strongly about but he recommended not referring to third party content for my animations in the future.

Week 4:
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 selfportrait 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.

Week 5:
This week I’ve left behind the animated sketchbook project a bit as we started stop motion and CG but I continued to work on my self portrait animation in my spare time. Something about the timing during the big laugh is stopping me from being able to draw the right in-betweens. I’m not sure what’s wrong.

Week 6:
I think I’ve finished my self-portrait animation now. I’ve captured the expressions I set out to. I can’t help but feel it needs more in-betweens during the laugh but no matter how hard I try, nothing really improves it. I need to move forward with my third animation which is lacking now.

Week 7:
I finished inbetweening the basic movement behind the grebe animation and added some a couple of head turns to spice things up a bit at the beginning. I also decided that the plumage on its head should follow through a little to make things less rigid. It’s looking a lot better now.

Week 8:
I put some water in the background of the grebe to complete it and fixed a couple of inconsistencies on my self-portrait animation. I think everything is ready for submission.

Summary:
The initial stage of this project really helped me get to grips with drawing from observation and kickstarted my sketchbook which I’m using a lot more now. The work I’ve produced I’m proud of, especially the car driving over the bump. It took a lot of problem solving to work out how something with that much detail changes as it jumps towards you. The diving bird I like as it captures how the movement begins so fast and slows down as it sinks into the water. The way the water splashes around it is quite satisfying too. My self-portrait animation conveys the expressions better than I initially planned it, with the leaning forward into the punchline. But I think this one is the most flawed of them all. The timing is all fine, but there just isn’t enough going on. There’s hardly any inbetweens, it doesn’t feel very fluid. The body during the animation doesn’t feel like it moves enough. The neck and the head lean backwards but the body remains rigid as you can tell by how the neck of the t-shirt stays in the same place throughout, even as the shoulders move.
All of them could have done with more time and care and relied more on primary observation. I think I lost sight of what the entire point of the project was and ended up animating what I thought looked good. Throughout this project I should have kept the goal in mind, pushed myself harder to make tidier animations and dedicated more of my own time towards the project.