Thursday, 28 October 2010

Rough Storyboards

I started a rough storyboard to plan out some of the shots I had thought out but hadn't really put into context or a logical order for the story flow. This was mainly an experiment to see if my ideas would work well together and not be too fragmented and misplaced compared to the other shots in the animation.

I missed out a few of the frames which were unimportant in the sequence, I just focused on the ones which showed the most important elements for the animation. I tried to create dynamic shots so the animation isn't just of generic low quality cinematography but actually shows meaning and purpose for every shot rather than just having a mix mash of medium and close up shots.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Concept and Development

I've been doing sketches and designs of characters for my animation idea, the first few are more along the lines of doodles which I've done as a starting point, from there on out they become a little more refined as my ideas of what they look like become more clear in my head. The first image is just a group of sketches which don't particularly show any specific character but more of a random bunch of possible characters dumped together.

The next group of images show the development of the main boy character of my animation. I tried working out his general look as well as some of his facial expressions, I want the boy to be wearing his pyjamas throughout the animation so his appearance is quite basic.

Proportion wise I wanted the boy to look young enough that he could easily be scared, but also old enough where he's at an age where he's capable of looking after himself so the way in which the character looks has to reflect this.

The above image is a design for the boys pyjamas, they are loosely based on the sort of thing I sometimes wear during the autumn and winter months which is a random old t-shirt with checkered pyjama bottoms. In terms of colour the ones shown will most likely not be used, the reason being that the colours of the boy should contrast with the environment so that he stands out a little bit more, any dark colours will make him blend in too much and he'll be lost against the background.

This is a colour piece which is to show a rough idea of the colours I would like to use for him, the blonde hair and bright red t-shirt will definitely make the boy stand out more from everything else making him easier to see in the animation.

At the start of the animation the boy is wearing a halloween costume from when he was out 'trick or treating'. When trying to come up with ideas for his costume I found it too easy to just go with typical outfits like cowboys, dracula, pirates etc. so I looked around my house and found an old teddy which I used to have when I was a baby, the teddy is a panda with a button like nose so i thought that the boy could be wearing a panda outfit. I also felt that since this animation piece is inspired by drawing heavily on my own childhood fears and nightmares that it might actually be fitting to include this because it's another element of my childhood which is important to me. The images above and below show my initial drawings of the boy in his costume.

The image below is a rough concept of one of the monsters I wanted to have in the animated piece, it is a very tall and gangly creature that walks slowly but covers a lot of distance because of it's long legs, it has a stone like texture and a blank emotionless expression with empty eyes.

I also made a height comparison for the 3 characters in the animation which are the boy, the monster above as well as a 3rd monster which is currently in the development process, although I have a general height that I want for it so I still represented it in the chart below.

Colour Design

I spoke quite a bit about colour and mood in my last post so I figured I should talk about it properly to clearly communicate my design intentions. My animation piece is to be set at night and during halloween so the colours used need to reflect this.

I started off by looking at orangy-brown colours as these are seen a lot around the autumn time when the leaves start falling off of the trees and when people start putting out pumpkins and decorations for halloween.

These are some slightly lighter tones of the colours above, its hard to find a practical and useable balance in the colours without them being too bright or too dark.

I wanted to use different shades of purple for the darkness such as the shadows and the night sky, if the dark shots in the animation have a purple tint to them then it will give it a somewhat fantasy/dream/nightmare look to it rather than it being just plain black and dark grey.

A slight variation from the colours above, these ones have more of a pink tint to them whereas the ones above are more on the blue side of the spectrum which gives off a colder feel.

The cold feeling evoked by blue tones could be very effective at creating an uncomfortable feeling in my animation.

I found that green would compliment the orange and brown colours quite well, it could also be used in certain highlights such as on wooden objects to give a more eerie and unusual feel, after all halloween is associated with things that are unnatural so when playing with colours like this I can have much more freedom rather than having to face the limitations of reality.

It's all good and well putting up a colour scheme page like this but it's all pretty much useless at teh moment until I start doing some proper colour tests with lighting in the concept work as well as small basic tests in Maya. It may be that these colours don't work at all towards the mood I'm trying to create and may have to completely rework the colours which I've selected.

These colour tabs were made on with the help of Karen Leigh Flint.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Influences and Inspiration - Research

When coming up with my idea for this animation the main influence I had was actually just the time of year that it was, it was coming up to october and all of the supermarkets and shops were putting out stock for halloween such as costumes, decorations and sweets. Looking at all of that sort of stuff in the shops was very nostalgic and made me miss my younger years where me and my cousin would dress up and go trick or treating, that sort of longing for a simpler and easier time of my life where it was all fun and games was starting point of my thought process which began to develop my ideas.

After getting into a really big halloween mood I started to watch typical horror films and anything else to do with that day of the year, even my doodles started to become more halloween themed which began the basis of my character designs which will be uploaded in the next blog post. When I think of the holiday Halloween, it always reminds me of the 1978 John Carpenter horror movie of the same name starring Jamie Lee Curtis; I watched this film and all of its sequels many times whilst growing up and eventually developed an unhealthy fear of the movies antagonist 'Michael Meyers' (pictured below).

The fear I used to feel when seeing this character (and having nightmares about him) is what I want to try to convey through the main boy character in my animation piece, its a feeling of being completely helpless, vulnerable and in danger and is absolutely terrifying.

As well as looking at traditional slasher horror movies I also looked at many modern horror media types that I have known over the years. I specifically picked out the Nintendo Gamecube re-make of Capcoms Resident Evil 1 solely for it's impressive camera work which gives the whole game an incredibly theatrical feel to it, which for a game that relies almost entirely on its story telling and visuals is a life saver because it truly keeps the player gripped and on the edge of their seat as they work their way through the game.

The video above shows a piece of the gameplay from Resident Evil 1, not only does it show the camera work which is incredibly useful from a cinematography point of view, it also demonstrates some very nice lighting both from external sources outside the windows as well as internal ones such as candles, lamps and hallway lights.

Another source I looked at for inspiration was the animated movie 'Monster House'. This movie has been a favourite of mine since it was released and being as it's all themed around halloween it's perfect as reference for my own ideas.

This trailer for the movie shows many examples of the different colour schemes and how they differ from day to night as well as some interesting character designs represented in a style that almost looks like they were made out of clay. The trailer also teases some of the horror elements which for this film are generally lighter and more audience friendly due to the fact the film is aimed at a younger audience.

Above is an image dump which shows a lot of the sources where I took inspiration from when coming up with the idea for my animation piece, it includes horror films from the 70's as well as classic tv shows, more contemporary films and animation as well as video games. I've also been thinking about a possible visual style, even though the animation would be done in 3D in Maya, it could have a clay look to it to make it feel slightly more organic and natural.

Another source of inspiration, mainly in terms of it's visual quality, is a short animation called 'Alma'. It's an animation which creates its scariness by playing on the fear of dolls sitting up on shelves looking down on you almost as if they are alive. I also found the texturing work to be very impressive and every time I watch the video it always inspires me to improve my skills as a texture artist.

Alma from Rodrigo Blaas on Vimeo.

Initial Research

Before I can do any sort of work I need to do research to inspire my ideas and help support all design development that I do. The best starting point for myself is always to find visual stimulation which I firstly do through the internet and any relevant books I have available to hand. Because my idea is halloween themed I searched entirely for halloween images to help inspire me.

The above images are some of the first ones that i've found which contain halloween elements such as pumpkins, ghosts and gravestones. Even colour wise these images are useful because of the oranges, reds and browns found in the pumpkins as well as the leaves and plants which help to represent that time of the year where the weather is getting cold and the leaves are falling off of the trees. These images show very well the type of mood and look I want to have for my animation piece, the only difference being that my one will be set during the night.

The above image is a perfect example of the type of house I wanted the animation to be set in, it's a typical Eastern, Mid-Eastern American home which is often used in the horror films throughout the 70's and 80's. I wanted to use this type of house for a few reasons, firstly is that it is easily associated with old hack n'slash horror movies such as Halloween for example, the peaceful suburban home which is turned into a nightmare, secondly the size of this house provides a lot of room to have characters moving around and has lots of different rooms which can all be themed differently. 

Heres two more examples of the type of housing and environment I want to use for my animation, again you can see common features throughout both in the colour scheme and the types of objects in the gardens as well as the architecture of the homes. The orange glow of the front porch in the top picture perfectly represents the lighting I would like to use in my piece.

These are some examples of types of different costumes that kids wear for 'trick or treating' on halloween. They are great reference for halloween costumes which I will be trying to design for the main boy character in the animation, i'm not too sure what sort of outfit he will wear but I do know that I don't want it to be something common and typically worn for halloween.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Here we go....

Hi there, thanks for stopping by. Welcome to my BA Animation blog, this is where I will document all of the work I do for my 3rd and final year of animation at Ravensbourne College. Enjoy!!

So at the moment everyone in the class is supposed to be creating their own individual pitches as possible movie ideas for our 3rd year animation shorts we're going to be making. What we have to do is come up with our own idea and present it to the rest of our class, and once everyone has done this we'll agree on the most practical and exciting ones, get into groups and then begin making the chosen pitches into short movies. Only a handful of ideas will be chosen so we all have to work our butts off if we want to turn our pitches into reality.

My ideas for a possible animation have been all over the place, I was originally inspired by the work of Koji Morimoto to create something very industrial and gritty, with the initial idea focusing on themes such as humanity, extinction, life and death but all from the perspective of a lonely, child-like robot; however after developing the idea and discussing it with a few friends I came to the understanding that although it's an interesting idea to explore, its just a bit too depressing and dark to work on so for now i'm putting it up on the shelf to use sometime in the future.

My second idea was more fantasy based and focused on a gremlin/goblin like creature who works in an evil castle/fortress and is constantly bullied and abused, until one day when he tries to make a daring escape. The animation itself would be about the escape itself and how the gremlin/goblin extravagantly breaks his way to freedom, however whilst working on this idea I found that I wasn't 100% committed to the idea, something was missing which was preventing me from giving it all me effort and attention...and thats when I just isn't interesting! If it's not interesting to me and i'm the one who came up with the idea, then theres little chance that anyone else would be enthusiastic about it, so what was I supposed to do about it?

I started researching about story telling and the best ways to get the audience hooked on your work and the most common answer I came across was to build suspense. A lot of sources I looked at which said this were in reference to writing stories or short novels, but the same principles apply to what we're doing. I then began to research how to build suspense in film and was surprised to find that suspense doesn't need to be directly in the script but can be built up by the filming techniques used e.g. the types of camera shots used and how they're edited together can be incredibly powerful in building suspense for the audience and keeping them hooked on what they're watching. I've been reading about the filming techniques of Alfred Hitchcock and taking note about the ways in which he builds suspense and then trying to apply that to my idea about the gremlin/goblin. Unfortunately the story still didn't hold much weight or interest for me so I decided to scrap it and continue researching to see what I could find, I knew I was bound to come across something which would give me the inspiration I needed to create a compelling idea.

After much researching and many days thinking I would never be able to come up with an interesting idea for my pitch, I suddenly remembered back to when I was doing Media Studies for my A levels. One of our units was about analyzing horror movies and working out how they build suspense and keep the audience hooked on the edge of their seats, part of that is knowing that the on screen characters are in some sort of danger, but because of the way that a lot of 70's-80's horror films shot with 'steadicams' (hand operated camera systems) which were frequently used to show 1st person perspectives, it helped put the viewer in the movie and really push their nerves to the limit, especially when you anticipate something is going to happen and you keep waiting for it, expecting it to happen at any moment. Besides  camera language, sound also plays a heavy role both through the soundtrack such as creepy music as well sound effects such as footsteps or heavy breathing. Both of these elements work together to build suspense, and with the genre of horror, it's taken to a new level where the audience is continually gripped and intrigued to find out what happens next.

The current idea i'm working on was born out of the research that i've just explained. I want to do something that follows that same rules and connotations associated with the horror genre, but I thought it could be fun if I tackle it from a kids perspective. So what sort of things scare kids, I could've made a list of all the typical things that you would expect a kid to be scared of but instead I thought that I would make it more personal and base it around my own childhood fears. When I was young I used to have terrible nightmares, these weren't an everyday occurrence for me but when I did have a nightmare it would really shake me up, they left such a mark on me that I can still remember some of them from when I was around 2 years old like they were permanently engraved in my mind, and each nightmare was set in my home. I think the fact that these nightmares were all in or around my house made it more scary for me back then because the home is supposed to be a place of safety and peace, but in my nightmares it was a place that held nothing but fear and anxiety and I was always trying to escape from it. I think that if I could mix the idea of a childs nightmare with the filmic language of the horror genre with a more child friendly visual style in terms of character and environment design, then I could end up pitching an idea which in a sense is fairly original to some extent but still holds the ingredients to make an engaging and entertaining (and hopefully suspense filled) animation which can be easily related to by anyone because everyone has nightmares.