Just testing some automated cross-posting shenanigans I’ve set up.
Nothing to see here. Move along please!
Originally posted on Tumblr: http://stiobhart.net/post/69482147469
Just testing some automated cross-posting shenanigans I’ve set up.
Nothing to see here. Move along please!
Originally posted on Tumblr: http://stiobhart.net/post/69482147469
Time for some more ‘WiPs’ or ‘works in progress’.
I like that phrase. It neatly combines an impression of having had to be dragged kicking and screaming away from where you are straining to give birth to a work of monumental genius –with the removal of any expectation whatsoever on the part of the viewer that s/he is about to see is anything worth writing home about, at this stage.
Meet Kolin The Kidney Bean. A character I shamelessly lifted from an idea by Johny Byrne and which I’m planning to use in a bit of stop-frame animation over the Christmas* holidays.
[*You’ll note that the author cleverly avoided saying which Christmas holidays]
Yesterday I metaphorically ‘broke the sod’ on a wee project that’s been rattling about in the nether regions of my otherwise vacant skull for a while now. I’m not giving away too much at the minute –mainly because the idea is still in the embryonic stages– but if I say it involves a reindeer with a red nose, you probably get some idea of where this is going.
Anyway, as the following sketchbook scans show, Initially I stupidly tried to draw a cartoon reindeer from my imagination, with the result that it ended up looking like someone had chewed up a load of pencil shavings and projectile vomitted them onto the page.
Chastened by my incompetence, I quickly
flew to Lapland fired up Google Image search and found some real photos of real reindeer to work from. Although the results aren’t masterpieces by any stretch of the imagination, I think they prove the value of always working from life [or as near to it as you can get], rather than imagination. For me anyway.
After trying various combinations of folders, subfolders and file naming conventions to try and cater for the fact that each ‘season’ is made up of several multi-part self-conatined stories, I eventually hit on the correct naming formula which is as follows:
In retrospect, it may seem pretty obvious but, at the time, I thought I’d have to do some form of sub-organising within seasons to account for the distinct stories in each one. Turned out you just number the episodes in order, starting from episode 1, for each season, and give all parts of the same story the same name. XBMC then correctly lists them as multi-part stories.
Posted here in case it helps anyone else in a similar bind. As I said, I wasn’t able to find the answer on the intarwebs and arrived at it through trial-and-error.
BTW –if, as I did, you ever find yourself with eleventy billion files to rename, I highly recommend A Better Finder Rename, a splendid wee app which makes the process *almost* painless.
At the weekend –inspired by the 50th anniversary shenanigans, I spent many an hour transferring my entire collection of original Doctor Who episodes from DVD onto the external hard drive on my media server, so I could access them directly through XBMC instead of faffing around with discs.
Much fun and frivolity ensued, as I wrestled for quite a while, trying to find a naming convention for the files that would allow XBMC to index the episodes [about which, more in another post].
As I scanned through the hundreds of episodes I had, I got the feeling that certain words such as ‘terror’, ‘horror’ etc. cropped up quite a lot. So I thought what jolly japery it might be to do a bit of nerdy geeky data-analysis and find out the most popular words for a Doctor Who series name. Then I could string a few of the top words together to make the ultimate Doctor Who series title.
If you want to know how I did the nerdy stuff, then read on after the big reveal. If you only want to know the results, I can tell you that the most popular words [ie. more than 3 occurrences] used in classic Doctor Who series titles are:
I therefore propose that the best Doctor Who story never made would have been:
Royalty cheques to the usual address please!
Anyway, for my fellow geeks amongst you, here are the meat and potatoes of how I came to this great revelation:
Note: I’ve only used series titles from the first four series as any fule kno that, once Tom Baker left, Doctor Who became officially shite, as it has remained to this day. Also note that the following code examples only show the effect on a short excerpt from the series title list, so don’t reflect my actual results:
An Unearthly Child
The Edge of Destruction
The Keys of Marinus
The Reign of Terror
Planet of Giants
The Dalek Invasion of Earth
The Web Planet
The first task was to break up this list into individual words. Time for some cryptic Vim mastery:
Inserts a line-break after each word. The list now looks like this:
Now it’s time to clean up a bit:
Will remove any non-word characters. The list now looks like this:
Actually, those both look the same when pasted into Tumblr, but in Vim, the previous version of the list was a lot more ragged. with lots of spaces before and after words.
Let’s get rid of the blank lines:
Now the list looks like this:
Now we’re getting somewhere. Next step is to uppercase all the words, so that the counting and sorting functions don’t treat upper and lower case versions of the same word as being different words:
This gives us the following:
Now, at last, we’re ready to start counting the individual words. First we need to sort them alphabetically:
Giving us this:
After sorting the words alphabetically, we can now use the ‘uniq’ command to count the individual occurrences of each word:
At last we have a breakdown of the popularity of individual words:
Again, Tumblr is helpfully stripping whitespace from this list. In reality, I found that the ‘uniq’ command re-introduced some spaces before the lines, so i used:
to get rid of those. Then finally I used
To sort the wordlist in reverse order, so the most popular words were at the top. The top of my actual real world list ended up like this:
All other words on the list had only one occurrence.
So there you have it. Doctor Who statistics gathering powered by Vim. Could I write a more geeky post if I tried!
Of course, there’s more to the National Media Museum than just the BAF and, whenever I get up there, I like to have a mosey around at the other exhibits as well. Being the gadget freak that I am, I love sticking my nose into all the old broadcasting equipment, cameras, and computer gadgetry too. There is also an interesting section on the history of animation. Here are a few of the things which tickled my fancy from that particular department.
Original models and sets from The Wombles. Unfortunately no sign of MacWomble, who was my favourite as a kid.
Original storyboards from Bob the Builder. Not my era at all, but I always like to have a gawk at what goes on ‘behind the scenes’ in the crazy world of TV and film.
Original models from The Wrong Trousers. Apparently nearly all the original models and sets were destroyed in a fire at Aardman studios and the ones in the NMM are all that survives.
A selection of models by Mackinnon & Saunders [I hope! –I didn’t make notes as I snapped away happily].
Cell drawing from Animal Farm, the first full-length British animated film.
Cell drawing from [I think!] Danger Mouse
Yesterday I made my, by now annual, pilgrimmage to the Bradford Animation Festival at the National Media Museum, to check out the latest goings on in the world of student animation, through the two Student Showcases.
Overall, I found this year’s offerings a pretty mixed bag. There was some great stuff and some not so great and on balance I think the quality was ever-so-slightly better last year. However, it was a pretty decent show and –with so much production-line CGI about these days– it’s always nice to see some good ol’ fashioned hand-crafted animation and imaginative use of materials and techniques, for a change.
Anyway, there’s no way I’m going to write an in-depth review of every film in both showcases but here is a brief summary of my opinions of the various films on offer –as deciphered from the hurried notes I scrawled in the dark, while watching the proceedings.
Crudely rendered figures. Cut-out puppet style animation. Nice attention to detail with a lot of small vignettes happening in the background. Well-observed characters with personality. Warm, humorous storyline.
VERDICT: I liked this one. Probably my favourite.
Crudely made cloth puppets –quite sinister looking. No attempt made to hide hand-stitching. Quite a dark storyline. Clever use made of ‘off-camera’ action to avoid need for complex animation, for example the ‘cutting open the womb’ and ‘snipping apart the twins’ scenes.
VERDICT: I quite liked the puppets and dark feel, but the story didn’t grab me.
CGI. Quite surreal story-line. Found the CGI a bit dead, lifeless and a bit creepy looking. Was this deliberate? Characters seemed lacking in personality. I think it’s hard to inject personality into CGI when ‘done on the cheap’ [as of necessity with student films].
VERDICT: Didn’t like it. To be fair, the projection broke part way through this one, so it might have turned out good, but I wasn’t enjoying it at the time.
Interesting use of clay modelling, where the surface of the models was deliberately left ‘un-smoothed’ so it rippled, writhed moved and changed constantly. However, the storyline was pretty minimalist.
VERDICT: Interesting to look but it felt more like an experiment with a new technique rather than a fully-fledged ‘story’.
Lovely detailed watercolour backgrounds. Clever use of really sparse animation in opening credits, to set the scene. Animation style felt quite ‘manga-esque’ with low framerate and quite ‘cinematic’ movement and angles [rotoscoped?]
VERDICT: I quite liked this one. Backgrounds were great. Some of the dialogue was a bit difficult to understand –squeaky kids voices played really loud makes my ears bleed!
Crude line art style. Strange surreal storyline. I’m not sure if it was a profound commentary on comtemporary morés, or just plain ‘weird shit’. Good use of humour, complemented by the use of OSX text-to-speech voices for the characters.
VERDICT: I liked it, but I’m not sure I got it.
Fairly traditional animation with a naive style to the characters. The cityscapes reminded me a bit of the opening to Futurama, although the overall style was very different. I didn’t find the character or storyline engaging at all.
VERDICT: Dull [that could be a clever ‘light’-based pun, if I was being wittier than I am].
Lovely sets and models. Some nice use of unexpected ‘found’ materials for the props, for example a rectangle of denim for the blue lid of a milk carton. Characters were well-observed and had loads of personality. Also well-observed body language and subtle humour.
VERDICT: Probably my other favourite of the day.
Very minimalist line-arty, scratchy style. When the drawing is this basic you need an interesting storyline to back it up. Unfortunatley this didn’t have one.
VERDICT: I was glad when it ‘stopped’ [I’m getting good at this punning lark now!]
Very ‘girly’ graphical style which reminded me of illustrations in women’s magazines. Not that I read them of course, but you see them lying around sometimes and simply have to catch up on the lates ‘shoe news’, daaahling! The idea for this one was quite nice, but I found the delivery a bit predictable and irritatingly repetitive [somewhat like the Pink Panther cartoons I used to find similarly annoying as a kid]. Also the main character’s signature noise was really annoying too.
VERDICT: Nice idea, annoyingly executed.
For the first few minutes, I really hated this one. It seemed pretty tedious and uninteresting but, as the plot developed I found myself really enjoying it. The concept is great and the way the animation weaves a number of styles such as cutout, vector, stop-frame 3D modelling into the storyline is really cleverly done.
VERDICT: Stick with it. It’s really good.
Quite abstract in appearance with a crude woodcut style. Lots of focus on transitions, abstract pattern and shape. Visually quite imaginatively done, but for some reason it just didn’t grab me. I think possibly because none of the characters had any personality, so you couldn’t identify with them.
VERDICT: Should have liked it more. Didn’t
Interesting technique. It seemed to be done with pastels using a Muto-esque technique, where each frame was smeared and edited in place, without trying to hide the ‘workings’. However there was also some texture there, like it was drawn on hardboard or textured paper which, of course, would make it almost impossible to rub the pastels off. So I was left wondering *“how did they do that?*” The quality of drawing was slightly lacking, given the animator seemed to be going for a realistic look. The storyline was not bad, but not very original.
VERDICT: Quite enjoyable and an interesting technique.
Painted background style. Drawing style very crude. I didn’t really get much sense of personality from the character and the storyline wasn’t up to much. Also, I hate socks and it was a story about socks!
Interesting Paddington series style combination of cut-out puppet animation with real 3D models. Good use of the screen to give the sense of a wider landscape existing beyond the frame borders. Very ‘crafty’ feel to the construction of the characters. Apparently based on a true story, which was interesting enough, but a bit too “right on sisters!” for my tastes. Neither did I like the singing, as I hate musicals.
VERDICT: Visually inventive. Spoiled for me by being a pseudo-musical.
More CGI. Very cinematic in feel with use of dramatic camera angles, lighting and editing. As with the previous CGI one, I felt the characters were a bit lifeless and the piece relied too much on computer-generated effects. The storyline was not bad.
VERDICT: Too ‘computery’ for my tastes.
Today we sent our entire first year and Alex’s Level 3 Art & Design students off to the Museum of Science and Industry [or MOSI to its mates], to have a gander at the exciting sounding Creating the Illusion: Animation in the North West exhibition. To quote the blurb:
Brian Cosgrove and Mark Hall met at Granada Television in 1959, and founded Cosgrove Hall Films 20 years later. Without Cosgrove Hall, there would be no animation industry in Manchester today.
This exhibition brings together treasures from our archives alongside rarely seen objects from personal collections, to explore the development of the internationally renowned studio and its impact on the animation industry.
Interesting sounding stuff.
Unfortunately the reality was, to put it mildly, underwhelming. After traipsing up and down various corridors in the otherwise usually excellent museum, we came to a tiny room which I supposed to be the ante-room to the main exhibition: about half a dozen models from fairly recent stop-frame animations such as Bill and Ben in glass cases, a few cells from hand drawn animations such as Danger Mouse in a couple of frames on the wall, and an old magic lantern in a case with a couple of slides.
I had a good look at what was there –which took all of ten minutes and then went on through the door at the back of the room to see the ‘main’ part of the exhibition.
Whoops! I arrived instead in a room full of exhibits about the development of the Reciprocating Grendel Thrutcher*
The Reciprocating Grendel Thrutcher [possibly]:
“I must have come out the wrong door” I thought, evidencing the deductive prowess for which I am famed. So I tried another exit… and another… But whichever door I exited through, I was confronted by halls full of Reciprocating Grendel Thrutchers and Beam-Engined Frottle-Smashers*. there was no more animation memorabilia to be seen.
Belatedly I realised that what I had thought was merely the ante-room to the animation exhibition was actually the entire exhibition. Well, colour me disappointed! As Alex quipped at the time “This just gives the impression that animation in the North West is not very important at all”.
It also explained why none of the students we’d sent on ahead, about half an hour before we arrived at the museum were still in evidence when we got there. I can’t wait to hear their comments on Monday morning!
The ‘Exhibition’ Room [this photo is actually life sized]:
* These might not be the exact names, but I’m sure they were close
Nice start to the day today, as someone of the managerial ilk arrived to do an unannounced Lesson Observation on me. No doubt in a couple of week’s time I’ll get the habitual feedback report telling me what an awful teacher I am again, because I didn’t have a lesson plan sitting in pride of place on my desk, formatted to official college standards on the official college spreadsheet and written in government issue edu-babble.
But enough of that dung. Let’s get on with the fun art stuff!
All the students put in another hard day’s drawing and scribbling away on their Muybridge sequences and one-by-one as they finished, we loaded their drawings onto the rostrums and I showed them how to import the images into DragonFrame. As most people had left very little space between their drawings we then had to export each sequence from DragonFrame as an uncompressed QuickTime movie, which was then imported into AfterEffects for a bit of cleaning up. Where possible, we just cropped the movies down to the central character, using the “Region of Interest” tool in AE. When that wasn’t good enough we had to resort to using key-framed vector masks to remove extraneous details.
In between helping the students and not filling in spreadhseets, I managed to get Ollie the Ostrich’s perambulations finished myself. In the end I decided to work with the shitty non-waterproofness of the so-called Indian Ink, rather than fight it. So I used a wet brush to smear it around the edges of the body a bit, as I thought this might give a nice wispy, fluid effect in keeping with the feathery nature of old Ollie. For the legs and neck, I used some quick light washes of watercolour, just to give it a bit of depth. Here is an example still image:
And here is the finished walk cycle, after importing into DragonFrame and a bit of croppage in AfterEffects [assuming, of course, that the intarwebs will decide to play ball with my highly irregularly shaped movie file]. Almost a nice smooth cycle. Just a bit of a jump at the end. I reckon if Eaddy baby had just shot one more frame of Ollie boy, we’d have nailed it: