Experimental evaluation

Experimental evaluation.

We were given the task of creating our own experimental animation, abiding to the modest guidelines that it must use a given audio track, and that it should use one of the many styles we've researched as a class, or perhaps one you've pioneered.

I chose to go down the stop motion route. It's an area i've only explored a little – with Anne last year in her workshop. I am a fan of making stop motion, I like the 'straight-ahead' philosophy that you have to stick to as I think it brings a freedom & spontaneity. Also, I don't have issues with patience, I can happily sit and let it enthral me for a good few hours. I find I get really into it and suddenly time has flown by.

My plan was to use a venetian mask and have it animate. I wanted the work to be largely about the aesthetic quality, & to play on a few slight themes. One of them, perhaps the biggest, was to look into the uncanny valley. Now obviously we talk about the 'uncanny valley' in terms of 3D modelling, but it to applies to life; shop dummies in windows at night can sometimes look pretty freaky, no?

Lapis by James Whitney
One big influence was James Whitney's 'Lapis' (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kzniaKxMr2g ). I think this is an absolutely stunning piece of animation that is still really up there today... I don't think using todays computers could help you to create it as stunning as he did. You could recreate it on a computer, completely digitally in a lot less time – but there's something about the 'manual' way about doing things – the slight slight imperfections you get when humanity lays its hands down – that makes things all the more receptive to us humans I believe. This is also why I am much more a fan of 2D animation than I am of 3D.

As an influence, I wanted to use the hypnotic effects of it as a basis for my animation. The fact the camera doesn't move and stays focused on the centre spot also. To be honest there's not a lot of James Whitney's inspiration visually on my project, but it's more to do with him having pushed the barriers. If he hadn't of made something so out there, would people be making stuff in the same vein today? Would I have thought of my project, and the 'hypnotic' basis?

Another influence is Radiohead's video for 'No Surprises' (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sgzeqwhNTDk ) . What I find so interesting about this video is the way we are completely captivated in just watching Thom Yorke's face, speaking the lyrics to us. Despite the minor narrative (which is really what probably got people coming back and watching again), we are still happy to sit and watch him just speaking the lyrics to us. I think this is something Thom likes to toy with; when I saw them last year he did a simillar thing, where for one song he just stared deadpan directly into the lens of a camera that slowly zoomed in on him while he played some haunting piano music. Brilliant. It had a really mesmerising effect on the crowd and was probably one of the standout moments from a really visually (and audibly of course..) impressive gig.

Anywho I wanted to take that onboard – the captivating aspect of the human face. Blending that with the uncanny Valley ideals was a test – because of course the face on show in my piece wasn't real. Did it work? I'm not sure personally. I feel the uncanny valley aspect works as it comes across in shades – which is what I wanted – that beginning eeriness and uncomfortable feeling. This is how the uncanny valley works best 'in shades', if it's too in your face its just to over the top and a turn off. Having it 'flicker' into the consciousness of the viewer is more ideal. I don't think I got the whole 'captivating element of the face' because simply, this wasn't a human face. I considered the idea of having eyes (pretend or real) open up inside the masks sockets, because this way it'd create the brief illusion of a real person. I didn't choose to in the end as I thought it would go down one of two routes – either it would be too obvious – too cheesy, or it wouldn't be noticeable enough, and be worthwhile. I also didn’t want to use computers to much to aid the work, so steered away from that idea.

The 'zag' to that 'zig' was to have the animation look aesthetically pleasing. In my opinion I achieved this, it has the sort of 'classy elegance' to it that mirrors in the music. That was my first judgement of the music – that its both haunting and elegant. And I also feel I mirrored this in the visuals – at first it begins quite haunting, then it becomes more elegant – like a renaissance times dance routine – then finally – when the whistle comes back in, the dance fades away and the eeriness once again becomes apparent.

One thing I was concerned about in production was that the 'black' shots (the shots of darkness that last for short periods) would look like too much of a cop-out, but to me they are fitting and to be honest, hardly noticeable. Funny that seeing as there is a lot of them dotted throughout! Here's a breakdown of what went with what:

  • the 'riff' controlled the flow of the camera (it goes in & out in one repetition of the riff) and also the 'standard light' up until the end.
  • The 'tapping sticks' exaggerate the movement of the flowing spikes.
  • the 'wood twist' ( I dont know the proper name for the instrument, you twist it and it makes a 'grinding' sound) controls the retraction of the front spikes.
  • The violin creates light on either side of the face (blue on the left, red on the right).
  • The organ that begins at 12 seconds controls the below light on the face of the mask.
  • The whistle controls the camera shake at the end of the piece. The shake softens the longer we hear the the whistle, as if we get accustomed to it.
  • The fairy lights came on inbetween the violin, varying with the sound, and also when the whistle goes high pitch.

I had to brush up on my skills in other departments for this. One element was editing the audio down to a slightly shorter length, but think I did this well and unnoticably. I used 'Audacity' for this. I also haven't done much rendering in the past, and had to crash course myself in it to try and get the right results. It really was a case of crashing through it – i've tried all different file types & codec's to try and get it the crispest I can. Mpeg4's & H264's are looking to poor quality for how I want it, AVI's are rediculously big, Quicktimes are good, but still I am restricted by the DV Pal settings. Its a tough cookie that I could use some help on.

With the other project on at the same time as this one, it came down to a case of having to manage my time accordingly. I created a pipeline with the two projects spaced out over a stretch of about three weeks with the individual tasks blocked in. For this project, I knew i'd have to wait for a creative spark to strike before I pushed through with the actual production of it, so I gave myself a week long grace period and told myself to do it on whatever night I really fancied it. In the end, it ended up taking up three nights work rather than one, so a big oversight there.
click to zoom in and spy on my schedule.
One interesting thing i've learnt from doing this is a love for the manually made. I could of quite easily animated a simple 'looping' version of the mask in motion, then added the lights etc in post. I'm glad I didnt... it would of just been missing something, the looping would have been too 'perfect'. Going back to what I was saying earlier – there's certainly a style to something handcrafter by humans rather than mastered on a machine. This is a very current issue, one we talked about a lot last year studying Disney's 'perfect image of a princess' .. hyper reality. It will be an issue until computers become more 'nature orientated'.. when they get a heart inside them!

All in all though, I am certainly happy with the outcome. Above the actual project objectives – I set myself the task of making this something portfolio worthy. I believe i've done that, i'm happy to show this off to potential employers as something i'm proud of and not have any qualms with. I like the flow of the whole thing and the way it comes to a nice crescendo at the end. It creates feelings of unease but also is aesthetically pleasing, this was the target. If I could do it again however, I would give myself more control over the flow of the back spikes. In production to me, they felt as if they'd be moving at about the right tempo, but come post-production, they were a little quicker than i'd intended. Much like the 'black frames' I mentioned earlier. Also – this was my biggest problem – next time i'd not be a cheapo, and buy a bigger sheet of black card. There's a few moments where you see the edge of the card overlap onto the carpet – this could of definitely been saved by me not being a cheap skate and paying an extra 80p!
Me workshop

Experimental animation - venetian mask

The Venetian Mask from Tom Gameson on Vimeo.

Animated venetian mask by Tom & Francesca. Experimental animation.

Gotta say, I am very happy with how this came out. It is very much what I percieved and originally wanted. The only bit I have complaints about really is the flow of the spikes. When I was animating, to me, they seemed like they'd be moving slower than they did in the final thing. I gave myself a rough guideline of having them flow in & out between 24 - 32 frames (12-16 frames each way, animated at 12fps). Perhaps its not nessecarily that they are too fast - just that they are the main point of focus for the viewer; being pretty much the only moving object, and therefore you're going to be conscious of there speed. Anywho, am happy.

'11 second' animation will follow this post swiftly (yeah right).


blog post!

Heelo. Update on work: Experimental - done and rendering. I am quite happy with it, i'll post it up on here before the end of the night, but personally im happy. I'll write more about it when I post it.

11 Second: It's going pretty well, I've finished off (pretty much..) the YOOOUUU STOLLE IT!!! character, minus colouring. And am digging into the other guy. I'm happy with how it's going, It's been a nice learning curve doing this. I thought i'd done enough planning from the off - but I haven't really - which on the other hand has been good because it's allowed me to be free with it, while still having a frame work to work around. Up's and downs.

Here's what is most probably my final update before it's done. LINK

Will hopefully have that finished tomorrow - a case of cleaning up on tuesday, thenof course submitting the badboy!



I found this decent website for us animators earlier tonight. It's got a bunch of podcasts on the subject of animating. They interview animators from the top of the food chain (people at Dreamworks, Pixar etc) and cover some good topics. It's nice listening to there stories, and I find it's especially nice to listen to while animating. That's one thing I have trouble with sometimes - keeping occupied while animating. Having an XBox at your feet.. a FIFA season to complete.. you kinda get sidetracked. I've found the best things I can listen to-to animate to, are:
1) Football on the radio
2) Podcasts (Ricky Gervais, Adam & Joe especially)
3) Silence.

Silence is really the true winner here, but if i'm doing something a little more medial, then it's fine to occupy my mind with something else. Just like doin' dot-to-dot innit! Film soundtracks aren't too bad either.

Anywho, will post again in abit with my finished experimental. Even though i've watched it through a couple of times already i'm actually quite excited.


Work update.

Mid afternoon update: I have just put a sketch in of what the hair will flow like. I think this will make the character, give him some personality.

God, still need to get the other character in, and besides that, still got all these frames to do on this one. Eeek.

Made a start on the shooting of the experimental two nights ago. I have to work at night because I'm using lighting, so need it dark (I don't have curtains, brilliant). But yeah it's going very well, I keep saying that this is gunna look great when it's finished, although I have to be a little cynical and say it might not work as a final movie. Hopefully it will, it's taking long enough! It's quite nice working without computers and doing it all 'manually'. I'm using alot of lights in mine over a (pretty much)repeated animation.. so it would of been possible to shoot it once, loop it, then create lights in After Effects. But I do feel im learning without the aid of a computer to do it all for me, you get more of a feel for the animaiton, plus, it'll have that 'warm handcrafted' feel, rather than the cold computer-robot touch.


Test shots for experimental

Did some test shots tonight. Gotta say, am delighted with these. Just the look I was aiming for. I think they look pretty damn eery personally.

click to view
Some words/themes related to me experimental (aka a reminder to myself) :- illusion, medusa, portraying emotions on blank expressions, the uncanny valley, hypnotics, elegance, eeryness, juxtaposed feelings (warmth & fear namely), ooji board, shrine. etc etc.

PS. Watched Four Lions earlier. It's brilliant, watch it. Chris Morris, once again, genius.

11 Second club

Allo. End of the day update on this. Am getting a little further on, i've finished off the end of my dope sheet now. It's across 4 A4 pages front and back, heres a picture :

"This is where the magic happens"

I've gotten to 42 frames now. Bare in mind these are mainly keyframes (with the odd inbetween), so once these are all done it'll be a case of mindlessly filling in the blanks, dot to dot, aka inbetweening! I actually quite enjoy inbetweening.

I've been trying to think of these projects as actual 'work work'.. i.e, Nine-to-Five, Five days a week. What i've been doing is working for 2/3 hours straight then giving myself a break. It works out quite well, but then generally I find after my first break of the day.... I slow right down and find myself browsing youtube... printing pictures i've been meaning too.. cooking overly precaucious pasta.. rearranging cutlery; procrastinating all over the place. Bummer.

 Here are my two character profile sheets. I'm happy with the two of them. What I may do later when the main body of animation is done, is add in some other details to them.. for example the skinnier guys belt/holster.. I will draw that on later, and his hair.

Here's pretty much where i'm up too, i'm actually about 10/15 frames on from this now.

Update: 55 Frames and counting. Link

Grazi perfavore ~

11 second animatic

My animatic for the 11 second project is half done. You can check it out HERE.

 Update . some of the keys done for character 1, but still about 80% of the whole animation left to go... oh dear.


Work as we know it

Yo. Update on the work front.

I've been working on an arcade  machine, making the 'waiting screen' that appears before you put the money in. It includes the instructions in it too, & logo screens. For this, i've delved into After Effects. I've hardly used it before so had to really get to grips quick, and I am very glad I did. It's a brilliant program that has potential in abundance. Anywho i'll post up the video once it's released, or you can go to Paignton arcade and check it out in person ;).

So that is what's been taking up the majority of my time recently, but now i'm finishing it up i'm getting on with both the Experimental & 11 Second project.

I've got my idea all sorted for the experimental, what i'm doing is using my Venetian mask and animate it in a hypnotic way. Here's my mask:
The spikes coming off change shape, so they'll be animated moving in rhythm to the music. Two influences on the project, are Radiohead's - 'No suprises' video & James Whitney's  work . The Radiohead influence comes from how compelled you are to watch a human face in close up, just simply singing the lyrics. The fact that there's a minor narrative to it is part of that aswell... but done so simply. I think this is a brilliant video.

Also, notice the little twinkling stars & other lights reflected in the glass? This is something I want to do too, use lights shining & reflecting off of my mask.

But the main influence comes from the fact your compelled to watch just a face. Despite the fact i'm using a mask, I think it'll still be captivating, especially, when it wont be certain if it's just a mask...

One of my aims with this is to try and head towards that 'Uncanny Valley eeriness'. Rather than it being a hinderance like it is to 3D-people, I want to use the eeriness to *shudder* the audience, If ya get me.

Anywho after all that, onto my 11 Second piece.

I wont write any more, just post some pictures instead. This is some character design sketches for my two characters:

I like this pic for the angry character.

Working up the 'I thought you put it there..!' character

draft story board 

Originally I wanted to try & dig deep with these characters, think about Derrick's "Thought's in there head, money in there pocket" motto, & make the angry character a nice guy, who's just been flipped by the other guy. But the more I listen to it, and the more I sketch, I really just want to make him a exaggerated characture of what an angry man should be like. Something like our pal Withnail...:


Here's a few recent drawings. Most are from Italy:

& finally one that is meant for Kathy's optional drawing project. 
It's from the Year 3 pitches the other day:

Style & summarising

"Kill your Stress from alberto mielgo on Vimeo.
Directed, Animated and Designed by Alberto Mielgo

2D animation with black inks"

 PS How good a tool is this for animators... haha.



Here's two animations that show a good/different use of rotoscoping. Both use it as a means to an end, with a purpose that lifts it above and makes it worth animating, rather than just filming.

This first one is called 'Table for Two'. It's about the up's and down's of a relationship.

Table for 2 from DAFNA AXEL on Vimeo.

and here is the second called Stand Up. The first time I watched this animation, I thought it was very hard hitting and clever with its use of rotoscope. It evokes the phrase 'Animation is the iron fist in the velvet glove..', both because its an animation (often seen as a childrens genre) and secondly because of its use of comedy.

And then of course there is always A Scanner Darkly. Ciao.


Ralph Bakshi: pure inspiration

Check out this pep talk by Ralph Bakshi. It will shut you up, stop you procrastinating, and get you back infront of the magic-movie-box!

The Simpsons

Thought this was an interesting comparison..:

"If a Hell exists for animation artists, I imagine it would involve having to work on later seasons of The Simpsons. There’s an interesting thing going on here though. Anybody familiar with animation history knows that virtually every classic cartoon character from Mickey to Bugs to Woody to Yogi became stiffer and less appealing as the years passed. It’s a good argument for why repetition is unhealthy for artists, and how it leads to artistic stagnation and an overreliance on formulas."



And here, something about Tin Tin - http://www.cartoonbrew.com/cgi/first-stills-from-tintin.html



Here's a few little bits of animation inspiration i've found recently...

Here is a comprehensive introduction to the Disney animator Milt Kahl. He was one of Disney's 'Nine old men', and my favorite character animator i've found. Check out the videos to the left,  its a roundtable discussion of Milt featuring the likes of Brad Bird & a bunch of other animator-folks.



I watched this pretty cool animation last year called 'The Secret of Kell's'. I heard about it because it was nominated for an oscar. Anywho, watched it, & animation wise, its very impressive. Its 2D, but has a very distinct style to it based on a Celtic-Irish look. You should check it out.

If you're interested, ask me & I can give it to ya.


That's it for now, enjoy.

First life drawing session of new year

I really enjoy life drawing because I find that the next drawing is always better than the last. This isnt something that I find when drawing in my pad - often it's below par, maybe above - its a lottery. To me, that shows that doing life drawing is key to stepping up your drawing ability rather than standing still.

Anywho heres some pics :

Also, ta Derrick for my picture, have hung it on my wall like I said I would!