Transitions

I have been working to resolve a transition in the production of the film for the the English National Opera. Towards the end of the film we have our Tigress protagonist cry, and we have her tears bleeding into a pool of water which becomes the next shot. Preview below:

So I’ve thought about transition in different films. I’ve been trying to look at the work of the filmmaker Edgar Wright, director of one of my favorite films ‘Scott Pilgrim vs. The World’. I believe the film is a masterful work of storytelling and among it’s many strengths is its use of transitions. “Edgar Wright is a master of rhythm … transitions are a sight of opportunity for Wright, they’re a chance to build important connective tissue that brings the viewer through the story.” visually in my story I’m working on moving the viewer from a moment of pain to one where we distance ourselves from it and see a glimmer of hope in the flowers by panning downwards.

“What’s important is that the film goer is involved and engrossed at the same time. This delicate balance is achieved through transitions that are often lyrical, like a kind of visual poetry in the most unlikely place. It might be worth noting that Scott Pilgrim is a film about a transitionary period in the hero’s life, a period in between knowing who you were and deciding who you’re going to be.” Similarly to Scott in my film our heroine is in a moment of transition. She is dealing with the loss of her home but at the end of that loss is an uncertain but hopeful future.

Nerdwriter (2016) Scott Pilgrim: Make Your Transitions Count. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pij5lihbC6k (Accessed: 30 November 2018).

Invention of an Animation Technique

We are currently in the early stage of production in our English National Opera film process and I have been struggling over a decision I’ve made. The choice was between using Adobe Animate to create the animation of the film or to take the path less travelled and attempt to animate only in between Illustrator and After Effects.

Before this we had for a large part used illustrator to clean the shots for the animatic stage of the process and it is a software I and one of my teammates knows well. Conversely, Animate is a software made for animation so it includes important tools that will speed up the animation process. Unfortunately, non of my teammates have used Animate before.

Initial Rough made by in TVpaint.

Having decided to go ahead with using Illustrator, I am trying to figure out how I can streamline the process. For example, linking the project between Illustrator and After Effects has given us a sort of makeshift way of checking the

Frame cleaned in Adobe Illustrator.

animation, the use of plugins in After Effects has sped up the process of laying out each frame from Illustrator. We are also heavily reliant on the roughs of the shots made in TVpaint before we can clean them in Illustrator.

Still from shot composited in After Effects.

I’ve also been looking other technique inventors, I’ve reintroduced myself to one of my favorite animators Caroline Leaf. The academy award nominated animator created three landmark films and created a new animation technique with each of her films. Below is an interview she gave in 1975 where she demonstrates the technique of sand animation that she has invented:

I hope with this decision I haven’t doomed my project to remain incomplete.

Docued (2014) Screening Room with Caroline Leaf and Mary Beams - PREVIEW. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_GotOotbrQE (Accessed: 1 November 2018).

Hilda

I recently saw Hilda a new Animated series on Netflix and an adaptation of Luke Pearson’s graphic novel series with the same name.

Cover of Hilda the graphic novel

It has made me think about the stylistic changes that look place in adapting the Graphic Novel characters into animatable ones. Bolder lines, a simpler shape based structure and more dynamic drawings, have all lended help in making a successful adaptation.

Main Character of Hilda the Netflix series

At the same time keeping the colour palette largely the same and the idea behind the characters, story and artwork have helped ground the series in the work it is derived from.

Similarly, I am hoping the adapt the original Patachitra art style I have been inspired from for my English National Opera idea into a form that is animatable but still true to its source. I am also hoping to be able to safely tread the line between adaptation and appropriation.

Patachitra Workshop Results
ENO Pitch Illustration

Great Expectations, Great Responsibilities

I’ve just found out I’ve been selected that my pitch to the English National Opera has been selected! While I’m waiting to find out who my teammates are I’m thinking about what skills I need on my team. Given that the idea has a very specific style. I am hoping I’m assigned to teammates with these skills. I want to be able to incorporate ideas from my group and make the project an engaging process for them and one that they can learn from. I also want to avoid creating a hierarchical group structure because these are my peers who know as much as I do about animation, and so I hope I can learn something from them. I am very worried about the responsibility of being affecting more than my own grade.

The idea I’ve pitched is about two tigers escaping a flood. This came together as a confluence of various ideas. It mostly comes from experience in my childhood. I’ve spent a lot of time when I was young traveling around with my father to remote forests in India.

Image from my ENO pitch

Having spent many nights camping out on machans with my father, he would tell me stories about Tigers and Wolves and leopards. One on my favorite stories was about a Tigress who saves her cubs from a flood in Dudhwa National Park. A favorite book from my childhood is ‘Tara A Tigress’ by Billy Arjan Singh about a Tigress Arjan Singh hand reared.

I hope I am able to do the idea justice.

Famous Flying Films

I recently had the fortune of attending a talk at CSM by David Johnson, one of the founders of a stop-motion animation studio based out of Manchester. David went through his work from starting out in the 80s in Australia, to his work on the ‘Cabbage Patch Kids’ and ‘Koala Brothers’ series, to showing us a pilot for another show he is hoping to gather the funding for.

It soon became evident that David was far more humble than the quality of his work spoke for. Getting very quickly into the nitty-gritties of what went into the creation of his work. Talking about artistic decisions such as beads being used to look like bubbles in a pipe or the choices in camera angles and lighting.  He shared backdoor knowledge about the industry, how he handled the studio and pitched ideas in the industry. Probably my favorite takeaway was him talking about how he had realized that viewers paid most attention to the little quirks and gestures of a character and that most tv series studios strapped for time or budget tend to cut these moments out first, but it is something he places most emphasis on.

The next day he returned to the studio with some of the puppets he uses in his work. He talked about their construction, the ideal way he has discovered to make the amateur, the materials used, how he tries to build in a unique movement into many of his characters. He also showed us production stills and clips to better understand the process of post-production. He answered my far too many questions about his work. And finally he looked at the work of some of the students and provided articulate and valuable feedback.

His frank and honest nature hid the through knowledge he has amassed about the animation process and animation industry over the last few decades. It was a pleasure to meet someone whose love for creating animation shows through their work.

Indohyus: Quadrupedal Walk Cycle Study

Illustration courtesy Hans Thewissen/Northeastern Ohio Universities Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy
Illustration courtesy Hans Thewissen/Northeastern Ohio Universities Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy

A nation mainly focused on dealing with basic problems such as poverty, health and education, fields such as Paleontology, like Animation in India is still in its infancy and largely seen as superfluous. Additionally the largely humid climate in all but the north and west of country makes the region bad for fossil preservation. This means there have been few Paleontological discoveries in India.

Cover of Prof Hans Thewissen's 2014 Book, The Walking Whales
Cover of Prof Hans Thewissen’s 2014 Book, The Walking Whales

One of the few critical discoveries made in India is that of a small animal that lived about 50 million years ago and discovered by Ranga Rao in 1971 in Kashmir. The importance of this find wasn’t realized until 2007 when  an assistant of Prof. Thewissen at Northeastern Ohio Universities Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy mistakenly broke the ear of one of the fossilized heads. He was about to glue it back together when the professor stopped him, finding something extraordinary, the size of one of the animal’s organs in its ear was unlike any other land mammal known today. This was an adaptation only seen in one other group of animals, Cetaceans (Whales and Dolphins).

Illustration by Garen Ewing of Darwin walking an Indohyus
Illustration by Garen Ewing of Darwin walking an Indohyus

Charles Darwin himself had introduced the dilemma caused by Cetaceans, and had theorized in his seminal work Origin of Species that Whales and Dolphins had originated from a common land ancestor. The theory naturally had him laughed at and creationists have had a field day ever since, until in the last two decades a series of discoveries in Pakistan and India have been able to chart the entire evolution path, except for the land ancestor. The 2007 discovery finally filled in this 10 million year gap (theoretically).

We had been asked to study the locomotion of a four-legged land animal as part of our animation program. I wanted to look at Indohyus as it is a very unique animal not just in how it moves but possibly has an important role in history. I decided to try and contact Prof. Thewissen, although with little expectation of a response. To my pleasant surprise he responded with helpful advice on how Indohyus may have moved. He directed me to videos of the Mouse Deer or Chevrotain (found in West and Central Africa) as a strong direction to Indohyus’ movement. Now I’m hoping to study the Chevrotain’s movement and produce a walk cycle as true as can be of this extinct animal.

Thewissen, J.G.M., Cooper, L.N., George, J.C. et al. Evo Edu Outreach (2009) 2: 272. https://doi-org.arts.idm.oclc.org/10.1007/s12052-009-0135-2
JEAN-RENAUD BOISSERIE, FABRICE LIHOREAU, MAEVA ORLIAC, REBECCA E. FISHER, ELEANOR M. WESTON, STÉPHANE DUCROCQ; Morphology and phylogenetic relationships of the earliest known hippopotamids (Cetartiodactyla, Hippopotamidae, Kenyapotaminae), Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, Volume 158, Issue 2, 1 February 2010, Pages 325–366, https://doi-org.arts.idm.oclc.org/10.1111/j.1096-3642.2009.00548.x
Brittany L. Coughlin, Frank E. Fish; Hippopotamus Underwater Locomotion: Reduced-Gravity Movements for a Massive Mammal, Journal of Mammalogy, Volume 90, Issue 3, 2 June 2009, Pages 675–679, https://doi-org.arts.idm.oclc.org/10.1644/08-MAMM-A-279R.1
Darwin, C. and Beer, G. (1998) The Origin of Species. Oxford : Oxford University Press.

Approaches to Life Drawing

The last few months during my program at Central Saint Martins I’ve had the opportunity to attend a few different set of classes on life drawing. The more loose but intensive classes by Vanessa Luther-Smith, the more structured experiments by Maryclare Foa and the freeform UAL Student Union classes. Each has offered a different approach to interpreting the human figure on to paper.

Now approaches to figure drawing are as numerous as there are people who draw regularly. And going back to renaissance period or older artists will be based largely on conjecture. So I’d like to mention arguably three of the most well known methods, each named for the artist who defined them: The Reilly Method, the Loomis Method and the Bridgeman Method. Here’s a quick breakdown:

  • Bridgman deconstructs the figure into masses of the body and how they join together.
  • Loomis deals with constructing the figure from simple shapes and proportions of the body.
  • Reilly gives a system for understanding the rhythm and flow of the body’s lines and curves or any organic object in general.

Bridgman and Loomis transcribed their approaches into books Bridgman’s Complete Guide to Drawing From Life and Figure drawing for all it’s worth respectively will help you understand the system. The Reilly Method is mostly passed on through his students, Angelo John Grado’s Mastering the Craft of Painting would be a good place to start. Trying to understand this method can be a lot more daunting at first, because it’s very removed from how you would naturally approach drawing, as one of his students Jeff Watts put it “The Reilly Method … is way more cryptic than people give him credit for, and people dumb it down a lot of time. It’s not just about abstraction … It’s about thinking abstractly.”

Here are (quite a few) of my life drawing sketches:

Bridgman, G. and Simon, H. (2001). Bridgman's complete guide to drawing from life. New York, N.Y. : Sterling. Originally published: 1952.
Loomis, A. (1943) Figure drawing for all it's worth. New York : Viking Press.
John Grado, A. (1985) Mastering the Craft of Painting. New York: Watson-Guptill Publications Inc.