Throwback – Beijing Animation Workshop – 2018

In October of 2018 I had the pleasure of being invited to Beijing to partake in an animation workshop ran by Birgitta Hosea and was joined with a fellow classmate Ellie Row along with other students from the animation course in Farnham and the students at Beihang university. It was an experience that opened my eyes to adventure and thought me about the culture surrounding the students at Beihang unviersity. I ate delectable food, relished in the wonders of the Forbidden City and found myself in a dream like state when transfixed by the neon lights that flood the hazy nights.

The gang and a few of our buddies meet at last!

Here we are above arriving in Beijing after a gruelling 13 hour flight that left my lankly legs squished and shaky and in dire need of a strong coffee. Icy (furthest left) and Leanne third most left greeted us at the airport where each one of the UK expats having a buddy that was our go to mentors for the trip with Leanne being my buddy and helping and guiding us to get the best experience of being a student and experiencing the sites in such a mesmerising city.

The animation workshops was guided by Birgitta and really helped us in converting emotion through to animation practices in order for equipped us to be better animators and storytellers. One workshop that was thoroughly enjoyable saw us in a large open area within Beihang University where a massive curved sheet of paper was hung around the perimeter of the hall as seen below.

The objective involved Birgitta to call out an emotive prompt such as anger, happiness or sadness and for us to feel and absorb that emotion through coloured chalk and pastels while at times having our eyes closed to translate that through the chalk and gesture onto the paper using suggestive strokes and markings. At the end we had to write that emotive prompt into the gestural markings and what can to be was a plethora of clear emotions that was seen through simple and suggestive strokes. It was a charming introductory practice that bonded us with the Chinese students and to see this massive creation surrounding the walls of the halls made it feel like an artistic accomplishment that made us proud whenever onlookers would stop and absorb our collective creation.

After we had left the wondrous Beihang university the space on the walls was needed for other installations and instead of simply throwing away our creation an artist named Tong Wang, recycled the drawings from our workshop by crumbling them into the slatted timber flooring and titled the piece – Paper Forest. I really admire that this artist seen further opportunity from our piece and took the chance to transform our piece and the space once again.

One other animation workshop was a performance piece. plastic plates were provided where we drew an emotive face correlating to an emotion – cheeky, angry flirty or sad. The plates were tied to our faces as Birgitta would shout out in scale an emotion that sometimes was mixed with another emotion, So sadness could be interspersed with flirty and so on. Collectively using Birgittas prompts we walked around the hall with our first creation in the background as we acted out and adapted a walk cycle that correlated to Birgitta’s prompt. From this exercise we understand that a person has many traits, emotions and different facets of their personality that can be expressed not just through walking but interaction and movement as a whole, A man for example doesn’t necessarily walk as only masculine, the same for females but their individual personality shines through and made it so that learning and understanding this important lesson when animating a character whether 2D or 3D shows that people are complex and is something to take into consideration when giving a character a fully flourished vivacious life.

Another animation workshop was trying to translate an emotion into an animation, I choose anger and decided to make a 2D animation in photoshop seen below.

2D Animation representing Anger

Outside of the workshops we made the most of our time by experiencing as much culture surrounding Beijing as possible. One of the highlights of such excursions was the awe inspiring Forbidden City. The Forbidden City is a mammoth mountainous area with ornate structures, temples and imperial gardens and houses that once was the former Chinese imperial palace housed the Ming Dynasty. We walked far and wide for 6 hours and only seen a fraction, noticing the little opulent details that were sculpted into the roof cornices along with the majestic mosaics of tile work that splashed the mountainous area in squares of colour.

I did get a lot of looks form by-passers with some looking perplexed at the amount of pilosity of my hairy stature, some motioning to their own faces at an invisible beard and giving me a thumbs up while those that were brave enough to realise I’m a gentle giant would ask for a picture together that I was more than happy to accommodate with.

Other adventures included a trip to the arts district where we seen the contemporary installations of Xu Bing – The Tobacco Project at the Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art, where he uses cigarettes as installation pieces as well as a glamorous shopping mall that had installation art structures and sculptures displayed into the architecture. The food was also incredible! we filled our bellies with all manner of different delights with my favourite being the hearty hot pots seen below.

Xu Bing Exhibition

I was extremely lucky to be invited on such a trip and even though we were only there for a week, as we were leaving we hugged all our buddies from Beihang university with many of us (myself included) getting a bit teary eyed as we knew it would be hard to ever see them again. I have never met such kind, caring and helpful people. My buddy in particular Leanne was a dream to be buddied up with, Leanne completely made us all feel at home and answered every question we had about their way of life as well as being curious about ours, they knew how to have fun and treated us with respect as we did them. We all had one thing in common and that was a love for animation, we all know how hard it can be sometimes, grafting long into the night over a dancing frog or autobiographical animated short so we respected them for giving us their time and for making this trip so special and one that I will never forget and always keep close to my heart. Travel is good for the soul and in retrospect I know I crave more of it.

The Green Glider – The Oasis Update

I have been working on trying to achieve a more painterly style with the Oasis world of The Green Glider animated short. To achieve these current renders I collated together many bunches of the 3D trees and plants and rendered them out, I then brought the renders into photoshop and painted over them in three different versions, 1 being the original scratchy and more defined version with clearer visible brush strokes. The second and third iterations blurring them out so they could plop nicely in the background to add more depth. I also made cooler and warmer versions of each painted tree mound and painted some shapes to act as leaves to bulk out areas as seen below.

〰️The Oasis Painted Tress – Clear〰️

〰️The Oasis Painted Tress – Blurry〰️

I then brought those renders back into Maya as alpha maps and situated them accordingly within the scene and added in some of the original 3D trees for the foreground so that it gave more depth of field. To give me more control I used render layers where I added the elements in different collections and rendered them separately – so a render collection for the furthermost elements and a collection for the foregrounds and so on, it means I can have a lot more control in post production if I think something could be blurred further or possibly blend more with the sky colour to give more atmospheric perspective.

〰️ Render Layers Gif 〰️

There was one caveat – previously all the grass was done with alpha maps which was causing a problem where the scene was so populated with alpha maps that light couldn’t render through them and meant that they were rendering black, I found out I had to dial up the render settings to offset this – the ray depth to be specific which resulted in ridiculous render times! So using what I learned about my Boogie Woogie Jive film and the ongoing Ersilia film, I had a muck about with using Maya’s ancient paint effects which worked wonderfully. Within the many keyframe achievable paint effects parameters there is the possibility to animate a slight breeze to the grass, I will definitely be giving that a whirl and see how to looks. I think with these many trial and errors the Oasis is starting to come to fruition, things can be pushed more but I think I am heading in the right direction.

The Green Glider – The Oasis Painterly Update

〰️ Render and Paint-over 〰️

I have been playing about with trying to achieve a more painterly, soft feel for the Oasis with inspiration drawing from impressionist paintings where colour and light play a massive part in showing nature and landscapes. A lot of trial and error has gone into these tests, mainly because of the colour as a lot of impressionist paintings are influenced by vivid fauvism. I attempted to adopt and get into the headspace of an impressionist, by painting with quick brush strokes of light flickering the water, moving clouds and how the colours would merge together with incessantly moving light, always in a state of flux.

I decided to paint over the render to get the feel before I mend Maya to give me similar results, a lot of which will be achieved by rendering out chunks of trees then softening, blurring and painting over them and turning them into alpha maps that I can plop in place; some of which will be a lot more softened or more crisp to draw the eye to where it needs. I am still a bit unsure of the colour just yet, I don’t know if it’s too much so as always feedback is appreciated.

〰️Render Only〰️

The Green Glider – Flower Bloom Experiments

〰️Rendered Animation〰️

I have been experimenting with how I want to achieve the flower blooms within the story of The Green Glider. These blooms where animated using a mash up of different methods – mainly blend shapes which really in its name where you can blend from one object to another by duplicating the first original mesh editing it a tad and then repeat for a few more. It was tricky to animate as blending the blend shapes to their full extent made the flowers too large and angular so I had to go in and use deformers to bend the flowers down and not dial the blend shapes all the way up.

〰️Blend Shapes〰️

To make the flower petals pop and look more organic after animating using the blend shapes I selected each individual petal and key’d them to pop into place, the animation could be refined more but since the world will be populated with many of these blooming plants and much more abundant with flora I think the overall scene will achieve the vivacious life of the Oasis, tests of how the overall effect looks to come!

〰️ Mock Up Composite 〰️

The Green Glider Animated Short – Official Poster

The Green Glider Official Poster

I am busy designing a pitch document for a fund with The Green Glider with the first page being an eye catching poster that showcases the story of The Green Glider in one vibrant fun image. I am almost done with the pitch document which was really enjoyable to put my designers cap again and I really like how the poster turned out.

Boogie Woogie Jive 〰️ Full Film

When this past weeks kick About was revealed I knew I wanted to make a film that was quick and spontaneous, what I didn’t know is that it would be bursting with colour and that it would feel very cathartic and fun to work on. A lot of the stuff going on in the film was a bit of a fluke with the music driving the animation, serendipity was definitely sought after with this film and I for sure felt that; feeling giddy when the renders had finally finished. I’ve always wanted to muck about with Maya’s motion design plugin – Mash and I learned a lot about it with this little animation as for me I think the best way of learning something is to jump straight in and try and make a film out of it!

The Kick About #14 〰️ Boogie Woogie by Norman McLaren

This kick about over at Reds Kingdom was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed injecting some colour into the greyness that is 2020. Dancing blobs, brush strokes and spirals got me out of a bit of a funk as I think it’s impossible to fret when listening to the tunes of Arnold Ammons who accompanied the vivacious animation by Norman McLaren – The whole Boogie Woogie genre is sure to make you smile.

It’s also proving worthwhile translating what I am learning from the Ersilia project into this little animation as the same old school paint effect techniques of those constricting ropes in which Ersilia resides is used in a much more colourful way with this approach. I apologise for the tragic quality of the video! for some reason it looks like I uploaded it with a microwave… but as this current version is a WIP hopefully I’ll figure out why the crispness is naught… or maybe that works well with the nostalgia of the music? I’ve attached some screen grabs and more experimental renders that are being edited in for the latter chunk of the song.

Screen Grabs

Experimental Renders

Ersilia 〰️ Film Update

Ersilia is starting to flourish as I continue to work on it which is a refreshing way to go about things as in this manner figuring it out as I go is proving enjoyable. I really love editing to music where a piano cord or violin screech effects how I interpret the edit, making it so that the music drives the edit and overall feel of the film and that is very much the case with the music accompanying the film created by Sergey Cheremisinov. The song which is entitled Sleepwalker has sporadic, creaks, fizzes and pin drop like spot sounds which adds another layer of texture to the music and invigorates a visceral response when animating the accompanying visuals.

The music starts off slow with a mesmerising hum that gradually builds up to water and bird song heard in the distance before transforming into something more violent and throbbing with surges and pulses echoing throughout. I am about to move into the more complex scenes which is the second half of the film and where the music swells and grows as will the visuals and is the part I’m most excited about.

I think because this film doesn’t have any moving characters and isn’t plot driven I want it to feel more ambiguous, more abstract and up to the viewers own interpretation. What I want to accomplish with this film is to feel like you are just experiencing the music, like the film is rhythmic and an extension of the music to embellish the song and work in tangent with it. It is all completely new territory for me and one that is proving invigorating.

Throwback – Dance of the Happy Shades and Sergey Cheremisinov

〰️ Dance of the Happy shades Film 〰️

Dance of the Happy Shades – a previous kick about over on Reds Kingdom was one of the most enjoyable Kick About’s thus far. I loved this prompt because it came very instinctively where I ended up making a little micro short, filmed from the inside of my bathroom’s poorly painted cabinet in my dingy west London apartment, where the light was shining brilliantly through the dusty bathroom window and in through a crack in the cabinet. I used my phone to film the light as I repeatedly opened and closed the cabinet door – making the light flow across the cabinet and then bringing those clips into after effects and mucking about by using some blend mode trickery, where lights and shadows started to materialise interesting shapes. To the precise eye some of them resembling a shodowy effigy.

The music discovered and accompanied this prompt is by Sergey Cheremisinov, which really drived this short and remembering that I went back to Sergey’s catalog to see if anything would fit the current short that I am working on. I found a piece that made me smile and shiver and after hearing the score it changed the periphery of the film into something a lot less dark, which I think works better (2020 is dark enough!) probably more sombre but I think that will be up to interpretation. Something about Sergey’s pieces with all its the creaks and fizzes overlaid sporadically invigorates a visceral reaction that make it feel like some thing is alive that shouldn’t be. I envision a lot when I listen to his music and like his music I want this film to have a replayability factor, so that really is the mission of this film and a whole new territory for me and one I’m excited to give a whirl.

〰️ Dance of The Happy Shades Film Still 1 〰️
〰️ Dance of The Happy Shades Film Still 2 〰️
〰️ Dance of The Happy Shades Film Still 3 〰️