Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Peter Lily and the Nose - layers

I've been trying to come up with a way of making the landscapes and buildings that the characters live in.  Trying to find a system and a kind of code - what is a silhouette in this story and why is something a silhouette?  what should be made out of something else, like chalk, and how many new ways of drawing something am I allowed to bring into the film before it looks too crowded.  Sometimes you want things to recede but at the same time create atmosphere, sometimes you want them to be a strong element of the storytelling.

The moon here is a big cut-out piece of white card, and the trees are silhouettes, but the stars and Peter's bedroom light are pieces of chalk drawing, and so hopefully it begins to set up some sort of storytelling hierarchy that is consistent through the whole of the film.

The outdoor night-time scenes are easy though - everything looks like a silhouette at night, so the decisions mostly make themselves.  Now I've been filming the scene in the tea-shop and there is suddenly a lot more to question.  What are the walls made of, can they just be white?  but then how do I suggest depth?  Am I allowed to blur things to help this?  What are they sitting on? Black card or chalk?  What are the tables made of?  they can't be black cut-outs because it's important to the story that we see what happens on the table.  

Here's how I've created it, in a system of layers, the table is paper, but white sugar-paper so it has some character of its own and also lets the shadow puppets make their own shadows through it:

This is the basic animated scene and is what gets filmed frame-by-frame.  Here it is as a single cell:

The rest can then be added on top . . . 

The chairs and table legs (chalk drawings):

 . . . and then wallpaper (photocopied chalk and line drawings, equivalent to the earlier scenes with clouds and rain):

I'll tweak it all a bit, but here it is all put together in this roughly cut-together edit of the scene:

If anyone is handy with .raw files and After Effects please get in touch as I need some advice . . . 

Sunday, 17 February 2013

replacement stop-motion animating

So . . . I haven't worked on my animation for a few weeks . . . you can watch my latest video diary to see what's been going on in my life  . . being self-employed is hard, to continue to remain motivated day after day means working hard on maintaining your self-esteem, and this can be easily destroyed in many ways - reading what critics think of your work, for example, can be really stupid and pointless, but I always end up doing it . . . it's pointless to be hurt by the opinions of someone that has turned up for 45 minutes, taken one glance at what you've been working on for maybe 9 or 10 months, and not bothered to engage any further with the rest of your work or even try to begin to understand what you are doing, they don't ask any questions, or discuss your work within any interesting context . . . it'd be like me judging their lives just based on their little byline photographs (which, of course, I do)  . . . but yet I can't wait to read these things, and I get upset every time.  Critics never really like my work, never, and although I basically understand this is ultimately a good thing I still get upset for a few days (or weeks) and imagine how I can avenge myself.   Hmm.  So it's been an un-healthily mental few weeks.  Then I remembered my own advice about how just getting on with your work is GOOD FOR YOU, and I started to get on with animating again and went for one of the more complicated scenes.  And this week has gone by very fast and I haven't seen any daylight.  I only left the house to see John Prine last night, one of the most life-affirming people I have ever spent time in the presence of, he sings and you realise nothing else matters apart from getting on with what you want to do.  Check him out if you already haven't by now.  

This is scene where Peter gives Lily a little present he's made for her, a clockwork motorbike with the two of them riding about happily on its back.  I've always been inspired by automate makers like Paul Spooner and Tim Hunkin (you might have seen their work at the Science Museum, the Eden Project, London Zoo, Southwold Pier or at Cabaret Mechanical Theatre exhibitions) and this is a way for me to pay tribute to their influence (in an oblique way, as they don't make clockwork toys that run around the table . . . )

To achieve a convincing clockwork key-turning effect within this 2D cardboard world I have been using a system of replacement cut-out pieces, photographing them in a sequence, to make it look like the key is turning in the machine as it rides around.  I could have just cut out the key 7 or 8 times in different positions and swap them over one at a time on the same bike as it moved around, but to look like it was really anchored in the bike toy it was better and more convincing to also cut out a new bike for each position of the key turning.  This had the benefit of the motorbike looking slightly more charmingly home-made (as if by Peter) as little imperfections and difference occur each time I cut the bike out and get played out as it is animated.  

I made 7 bikes to complete the winding key cycle:

and then I tested it and it didn't work.   

And also I noticed that I hadn't even properly finished cutting out all then pieces even, I hadn't cut out all the mouths and so looked like they were gulping a bit weirdly.  

When I cut out the keys I thought I had observed the real-life key turning really accurately, from this guy:

but it just was all wrong.  This is the thing about films and animation - if it doesn't look right it just isn't right, you can't deceive yourself that it'll look fine once all the other fancy stuff has been added, it won't.  So I had another look at the robot (actually is it a martian?) and cut it all out AGAIN.  This time it worked . . . 

You can check out my video diary below, it's quite a long one, and I've got a little more to say about this  week's work, I've been building up the physical layers of the animation to create the room settings and furniture so I'll continue writing this later to show you some of that. Meanwhile, thanks a lot for reading.