Wednesday, 26 May 2010

'Tis the season for line tests

A quick progress update for 'The Naughty List', my mini-short about the tribulations of middle-management. Or Santy-Claus, whatever melts your butter. Focusing on the film as a combative measure against evening snacking, I've knocked the bulk of the character animation out over the last fortnight, which is sort of unprecedented given my usual fits-and-starts approach to these types of personal projects.There are a few remaining shots of channel-hopping that need to be worked out, which I'll tackle next along with the cleanup. As always I've been aided tremendously by my own little batch of worker elves in this respect, and the unexpected stretch of warm weather we've been having has given me an excuse to take some work outside (although there's something incongruous about working on a xmas-themed film in the blazing sunshine). All in all it's been a weirdly calm, organic process putting this short together, and one I'm starting to have some faith in. So here are a smattering of line tests to go out on before the colour footage starts coming together:

Sunday, 23 May 2010

The dead duck that just won't die

So you went ahead and acted on that nagging impulse to book a holiday to Brazil this July, yet this strange, alarming feeling plagues you. A sense that somehow your visit will be for naught if you don't cross one vital thing off your list...
What luck then, that I'm hear to remind you. In Rio de Janeiro from July 16th to the 25th - and in São Paulo from the 28th to August 1st - is Anima Mundi 2010! Fantástico! And yes, predictably, my vested interest in said festival is, as always, down to the inclusion of 'House Guest', much to my delight as I've at this point 'retired' the film from the festival circuit. That it gets one (possibly) last screening pretty much exactly two years after it was finished gives me that warm, tingly feeling the rest of you deadbeats need pharmaceuticals - or, I dunno, human companionship - to attain.It's in pretty impressive company to boot. Amongst the other included films are Bill Plympton's 'Santa: The Fascist Years' and 'The Cow Who Wanted To Be A Hamburger', Adam Elliot's superb 'Mary & Max' (a film whose virtues I extolled previously), and the recent Bafta-winner 'Mother of Many', a film about midwifery I enjoyed a lot for its candour in regard to what a frontbottom-wincingly grim debacle childbirth really is. But, y'know, in a sweet way.Many thanks to the Anima Mundi peeps, go check out their website, blog and Twitter. As always the wheres and the whens will be posted when I knows them, fo'sho'.
In celebration I'm off to my balcony to relish what's sure to be a fleeting period of lovely warm weather while sipping homemade caipirinha. I is a cultured fellow.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Spirit of the Season

The last week has been very productive as far as my third film's progress goes. Having come up with the idea a while ago, I've had a lot of time to familiarise myself with the character personalities even though I didn't really start working on it before March. This has really helped with the animation, which has been going very smoothly so far. The short is essentially a single conversation, charged with a lot of different emotional conveyances such as awkwardness, fear, boredom, incredulity and so on. Consequently it's been a balancing act of having the movements and expressions be considered while not over-animated. Looking back at my first two films, it draws from elements of both."House Guest" was dialogue-driven and had a number of conversational scenes where the animation was very limited in terms of movement and range of facial expression. In a Family Guy/Simpsons kind of way it worked and was an essential means to an end when it came to meeting the MA deadline.My second short, last year's "Ground Running" was "House Guest"'s opposite in the sense of it's absence of dialogue, instead relying on fully-animated sight gags and body language alone to convey the story.
With "The Naughty List" I want to apply this level of acting detail to a conversational scenario. I'm keeping it short (around three minutes) so I can really take my time with it. Just looking at the line tests I'm feeling pretty encouraged, the lip sync and mouth shapes will be a vital contributor to the acting but in the meantime the body movements alone seem to be going quite well with the dialogue. Here's the same segment I posted as a storyboard animatic last week in pencil-test form:
Hopefully next week I'll be able to start the cleanup. The one coloured shot of the Elf in the footage above should give an idea of how the film will look overall. Gives me a good feeling...

Monday, 10 May 2010

Animatics, dope sheets and coughin' my fuggin' eyeballs out...

Finding myself committed more to actual 'work' work of late, I haven't been spending a lot of time on the various recreational projects I've had on the go. I picked up some piss-irritating illness the other day, doubtless from the Bristol Arts Trail which, while a fine idea in theory, in actuality sees one traveling from damp house to damp house, picking up every Bristolian's germs on the way. Unable to move much from the resulting superflu, I've been soldiering on with the animatic for 'The Naughty List'. I'd hoped to do this last month following the storyboard I put together in a (presumably unsuccessful as I never heard back) bid for funding, but I only located the dialogue record yesterday.The film has two characters, a traditional-ish Santa and Elf, both voiced by me for economic reasons. I don't think I'm a dreadful voice actor but I certainly don't have the ability to play two characters and not have it be obvious that their source is the same person. Mel Blanc I ain't. Thus I've used the Trey & Matt cheat device of digitally pitching up the Elf voice and pitching down the Santa voice. In both instances the effect is applied moderately but enough to give some necessary distinction. Here's a tiny snippet to show what I mean:
The other issue is that I'm a total mushmouth, so hopefully not that many people will pick up on both characters having the same lisp.
Now that each shot is timed out I'm eager to break out some dope sheets and start work. The time-consuming nature of animation is such that it's an ideal distraction from being sick so I'm hoping to use this time as best I can. Otherwise, let's face facts, I'd just be looking at a fortnight of nonstop onanism. At my age that's finally starting to lose its novelty value.
And on that unnecessarily unsettling note I bid you adieu.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010


Whipped this up as a paltry goodbye present for one of my MA coursemates who's off to work on a feature in Norway.This is a pretty faithful rendering of an actual Halloween costume she made for herself one year*, as you can tell she's kind of twisted and for that she'll be missed.
She's also incredibly talented and ambitious and I regret not making more of an effort to know her better while she was around. Always the way it goes, innit?
Good luck and hopefully one day we'll work together again :)