Posted by & filed under RMIT AIM course notes.

The following are the sounds heard in the scene which I have chosen for Exercise 2:

Bird sounds all around. Insects buzzing. Wind gently blowing through tall trees.
Creaking of a bicycle chain. The rhythmic breathing of the bicycle rider.
A truck heard in the distance, silence, then truck sound heard again.
Truck sound now closer. Truck changing gears.
Truck engine very loud (almost deafening) now as it passes. Truck horn a friendly “Boop Boop”.
Truck sound becoming more distant.
Truck engine not straining any more and almost disappears.
Rhythmic breathing can be heard again, now heavier than before. Chain creaking. Repeated for a minute.
Relieved breathing. Creaking chain not heard any more.
Sound of tires zipping on asphalt building up. Sound of wind rushing past.
Brakes squealing.
Sound of wind rushing past and tire-zipping sound even louder now.
Suddenly a thud and a buzzing sound from a confined space.
More frantic buzzing. Paniced slaps on a hollow object.
Angry buzzing. Scream: “ARGHHHH! #$@&!!!”
Screeching sound of bicycle tire on asphalt. Metal hitting and scrapping along asphalt.
Gravel being scrapped and scattered.
Heavy, fast moving object crashing through bushes.
Loud bone crushing thud of a body hitting solid wood.
Silence for a moment with only the sound of a bicycle wheel spinning freely.
The sound of the insects and birds returns. Sound of a wasp buzzing away.

Here is a description of the scene:

Jack leans forward on his bike as he starts to climb the hill. The songs of the birds and the hum of the insects is only broken by the rhythmic sound of the pedals turning and his breathing becoming heavier. In the distance a truck can be heard intermittently as it winds around the twists and turns of the hilly road. The sound of the trucks engine becomes a roar as it gets closer to jack. Great puffs of diesel stench engulf Jack as the trucks roar becomes deafening and the driver not realizing the impact of his vehicle gives a friendly “Boop Boop” on the horn of the truck as he passes.

Struggling to breath, Jack slows down to increase the distance between him and the truck. In the distance the truck’s engine stops to strain as it reaches the top of the hill and it’s peaceful again.

It seems to Jack that getting off and walking may be faster and less strenuous but in this condition any change seems to be too hard work so he slugs through for another few minutes before reaching the top of the hill and claiming the downhill as his reward.

As he picks up speed the wind makes his eyes full of tears and blurs his vision. He carefully brakes and turns the chicane before picking up speed again. Suddenly a wasp slams in to his helmet and goes through one of the ventilation holes in Jack’s helmet. Jack can feel something crawling around his hair. Frantically he slaps at his helmet trying to free the wasp but the buzzing becomes angry. Jack screams as he is stung by the wasp and he grabs the brakes in reaction which makes the bike slide from under him causing him to lose control and crashing into a tree on the side of the road.

Posted by & filed under RMIT AIM course notes.

The Digital Image – Visual Style
Today we were given our first class by Mathew Riley ( http://matthewriley.net/aim/ ). He began by showing us some of the work that he had done and moving on to the works outstanding past RMIT students such as Jonathan Nix ( http://www.studionix.com/ ). We looked at Jonathan’s “Hello” which was done for his major project at RMIT AIM, going through some of his travel sketches, and developmental shots. Here is some advice on Visual Style that Jonathan gave to the student some years back:


RMIT
AIM Centre for Animation and Interactive Media

The Digital Image
Visual Style

Advice by AIM graduate Jonathan Nix regarding Visual Style

In the context of the AIM course, or any project for that matter,
I would recommend a few things.

1. Spend some time developing your characters prior to production.
( If you are going to have any)
Get a book or piece of paper and draw them in 10 or more different
emotional states. Exagarate them.
Through this process you will refine your designs and come to understand
your characters better.

2. Think about the integration of character and background.
A great example of really clever design is the Studio Ghibli film
My Neighbours the Yamadas. Essential elements only are included,
and yet there is a lovely use of 3D as well.
If the idea / story is good, you can do it B+W with stick figures.

3. Tailor the design to the timeline and support you have available.
You can’t make ‘Spirited Away’ on you own in three months.
Keep it simple and focus on quality of narrative and animation.
Don’t let the computer drive you, drive it.

4. Think beyond the side on mid-shot.
If your animating it, the camera could be up a nostril or
inside a pancreas.

5. Mock up a few images that show the final look you are after.
Take note of the process involved in creating this image.
Ask around to see if there is a more efficient way to achieve it.
If you ask John Power, write down your question first so
you can remember what it was.

6. Be careful drinking those modern energy drinks like ‘V’.

7. Matt may seem kind and cuddly, but he has disguised his
acidic tongue and derision for fools very well.

In regards to using 3D environments with 2D characters we looked at Andy Buchanan (RMIT AIM 2005) “Looking for Joe” and we were adviced by Matt to figure out how much time we have and to find what you can fit in that amount of time; do still images of how you want the film to look, how long did it take to do? From this estimate how long the whole piece will take to do.

Using digital collages is another approach which was shown in the piece “Skyfall”, based around the theme of cyclic nature of things. This was a collaborative work containing no character animation, using flat art work and transitions to communicate with the audience. Another example of digital collage was Shy Limanon’s (RMIT AIM 2004) work which is anti-realist with no perspective or spatial depth and all visual are flat and compressed. This piece was done in flash.

Other works we looked at were:

  • Matt Owens ( http://volumeone.com/ ) interactive narratives, turning art work into linear narratives.
  • Future Farmers ( http://futurefarmers.com/ ) Manga influences, with soft gentle colour palettes with garden metaphors and ideas around nature since the founders were originally farmers.

In the afternoon we werew introduced to Yeap a past student from 2005 who started off making videos and directing music videos and now working as an animator in Flash. Yeap will be teaching us Photoshop and Aftereffects in the coming weeks. His advice to us was to realize that the whole process is based on problem solving. It is important that you plan out what you are going to do before you start and then work on solving each problem as it arises. Understand your limitations and plan your scenes accordingly.

Posted by & filed under Animation, Flash.

Here is a little test animation of The Sneak character that I did while testing out my new setup with the Samtiq (there are some problems but I might be able to find some work arounds, hopefully).

(Roll the cursor on the image to see the animation, roll out to stop)

Posted by & filed under RMIT AIM course notes.

Animation

In character design it is good to emphasise the face because you can show so much emotions through the face. Animation is concerned with creating an illusion, synthesizing movement in space. To do this it often helps to break things into smaller pieces, for example we put the background on one level, the figures body on one level and the head on another level.

The Disney style of animation is so labour intensive that it becomes unproductiove for begining independent animators to emulate. It is better to work in a smarter way by breaking characters into smaller parts which can be animated independently without having to redraw the whole drawing again.

The analogue way of doing animation has 80 years of history behind it, the digital world of animation is only a few years old, at this point it is often good to work in between the two. Creating images in the analogue world and then using the digital realm for helping to animate them. We looked at various examples of past students work showing how they used 2 1/2D techniques in their films.

Justin Foo, a past graduate working in the industry now, visted us for the hunters and gathers lunch and talked to us about his experiences working in the industry and his year at RMIT working on his film Unmarked.

Posted by & filed under RMIT AIM course notes.

Editing
The Preproduction, Production and Postproduction stages of a project were discussed and where editing fit int the whole process.
Flow diagrams of the the way hand-drawn linear animation, flash animation and stop-motion animation progressed were drawn.

Non-linear editing, refers to editing which is done on a computer where we can jump to any point of the film at any time. This is in contrast to linear editing done on film where to get to a point on a film you need to wind the film to that point. Linear editing forced the editor to THINK before he did anything. But with the introduction of the computer you can now do before you think (with mixed results). It has become so easy to cut here and cut there that many beginning editor don’t think about what they are doing and end up with 50 different cuts and then can’t chose between them, the tyranny of choice. A better way is to think about your cut before you start clicking away. In editing the stuff that you leave out is just as important as what you leave in.

Our screenings will be on Betcam SP and our frame rate will 25fps. The dimensions of the image depend on the pixel aspect ratios. The computer has square pixelsand video has rectangular pixels. When doing stuff on the computer work at 768 x 576 PAL. DV Pal is at 720 x 576, this is the dimension as it is written to the Betcam SP. If working in flash then use 768 x 576 Square Pixels 25fps. SMPT time code was explained.

We were then given a crash course in Final Cut Pro.

Posted by & filed under RMIT AIM course notes.

In animation the relationship between the animator and the character is one of master/slave, where the character can be made to do anything by the animator and this god like power is what attracts many megalomaniacs to the field. When the animator know his/her character well the charcter starts to have a life of it’s own and the animator knows how the character would act in different situations.

Since the appearance of a character can be readily changed in animation, the character designer is able to push features in a direction which suits the personality of the character.

Here is a list of things that the class came up with in regards to what makes a character:

  • Physical characteristics/clothing
  • Anthropomorphic
  • Idiosyncrasies
  • Contrasts
  • A past which influences the way the character behaves now
  • The way they sound
  • The way they move (e.g speed)
  • Relationship with others
  • Flaws
  • Wants/Motivations
  • Abilities/Disabilities
  • Environment and how they react to it
  • Their mood
  • Personality
  • Reactions
  • Change, character arc

It is important to remember what a character sounds like, it is easy to get caught up with the visuals of a character but the sound will make up a large part of this character. The character does not necessarily have to be humanoid, for example a chair is in Norman McClaren for at NFBC. For the character to be believable it must act consistently within the story, the character can change (an the audience enjoy seeing the character change in some way) but this is a gradual change (character arc) and is different to the character acting one way one minute and acting in an inconsistent way the next moment. In this case the audience will find it hard accept the character, is he one or the other?
The audience’s imagination is powerful tool, use it to save on animating things, you dont have to spoon feed everything to them, leave something to spark their imagination and it will be more powerful than any animation. Interesting results can be achieved by putting known characters in new environments.

We looked at the short film Cloud Cover which elegantly deals with the issue of depression. In this case depression is represented as a cloud which is a character of it’s own in the film.

External Manifestation of an Interior State (EMIS)

  • What do we know about the character?
  • How do we know it?
  • What do they want?

As an example we looked at the short film Hitch where in the first part of the film we are misled by the clues that we are given about the types of characters we are seeing. This surprises the audience and puts a smile on their face. It’s good to play with the audience’s expectations to break them out of the patterns which they have seen over and over again. Balance your characters so that they are a match for each other, stories are about conflicts and no one likes to watch a one sided conflict.

Here are the notes for character: http://aim.adc.rmit.edu.au/kcawley/Scr_chrctr.html

Posted by & filed under DIY Cintiq.

After a lot of discussions with the glass shop about how 2mm glass is too thin and very easily broken, I ordered a circular piece of 3mm glass to be used for the working surface of the Samtiq. The glass has 3 holes drilled in it and bolts into the wood underneath it and then the little metal knobs screw ontop of that to hide the bolts.

I started by placing the glass on top of the Samtiq and marking where the screen was going to be. I then masked off the underside of the glass and started painting the glass black. Oh I made a Samtiq logo stencil and painted that orange before going over it with black. Need to wait for the logo to dry completely before starting with the black, which I didnt do and so I had to do a bit of a fix up later. Anyway it will look really messy painting the back of the glass but when you turn it around you get this even smooth colour (just like they used to paint animation cells). I had to do 4 or 5 coats of the black to make sure all the holes were filled. Here is a shot of me painting the glass:

Samtiq_glass_paint

Then I just marked where the bolts were going to be and drilled the wood and that was it. I am happy with the look of the unit now. Since I have the protective glass I can now use full pressure without worrying about damaging the LCD, although the glass is a bit too smooth and doesnt have the grip feel of paper but I hear that the felt nibs from wacom help with that. Here are more shots of the unit:

Samtiq_glass1
Samtiq_glass2
Samtiq_glass3
Samtiq_glass4
Samtiq_glass5

Posted by & filed under RMIT AIM course notes.

In Michael Dudok De Wit’s Father and Daughter, the stage is set with a father and his young daughter riding their bicycles to the edge of what looks to be a lake. The father says goodbye to his daughter and goes down to the water’s edge, there is a moment of hesitation before he runs back up to his daughter and gives her one last hug goodbye. He then goes down to the water’s edge and he rows away as his daughter anxiously looks on. This is the first plot point.

What follows feels rather odd because we are so used to things happening which have significance in themselves but in this film we see mundane scenes of the daughter’s life repeated as she grows up and keeps visiting the lake, hoping that maybe her father will return. Although the scenes in this second act are everyday occurrences they still hold the audience’s interest through the use of interesting actions such as the effect of a very strong wind on the cyclist, cycling through puddles of water and interesting shadow scapes.

The second plot point is reached when the daughter has grown old and is hardly able to cycle any more. She arrives at the lake and puts her bike on its stand, intending to go down to the lake but the bicycle falls over. She picks it up and tries again but it falls once again, she picks it up again and it seems to stay put this time before falling over again. She considers it for a moment before deciding to leave it on the ground. This scene prepares the audience for what is to come.

She is leaving this world and in the final act we see her going through the lake which has now gone dry and become overgrown with tall grass. She finds her father’s boat in the sandy clearing and curls up inside the boat and goes to sleep.

In the final scene we see her waking up and finding her father waiting for her, she transforms to her younger self as she walks towards him and is finally reunited with him.

I think this sad but beautiful film is about the cyclic nature of life, as symbolised by the wheels of the bicycles which run like a thread throug the film. In regards to this film using the “Big Three”, I don’t think it has “outstanding characters” as they are always seen from a afar and because act two deals with her growing old it is better that we don’t have a concrete image of the daughter. But the film does have interesting actions and locations. Although the location is the lake in every scene, each time it is looked at from a different point of view or with interesting lighting effects which helps to keep the audience interested in these repetitive scenes which I think symbolise the often mundane and meaninglessness of life.

The characters in this film are not individuals but symbols hence the film is already missing one of the Big Three: “outstanding characters” so if we were to experiment by removing another one of the big three, lets say interesting actions, then I think the story would still work but the audience may get bored by the repetition of act two.

Could we take out an act and still make the film work? Maybe we could take out the beginning and show the daughter character returning again and again to the lake but the audience not knowing why she keeps returning to the lake. This may make the audience more curious about what it is that draws her back to the lake, but I think the daughter character would need to be made more recognisable, maybe with distinct habits and mannerisms which can be carried through as she gets older.

pans_lab.jpg

The second film that I chose to look at for this exercise in narrative structure is Pan’s Labyrinth. A film with many threads running through it but our heroine is Ofelia, a young girl caught up in the chaos of 1944 Spain. She is traveling with her pregnant mother (who has married a murderous captain) to a military post in the country so that The Captain can be present at the birth of his son.

The movie starts with the narrator telling us about a girl from a different world who is attracted by the light of the human world, so much so that she starts to spend too much time there and is lost to here own world, but her parents wait for her knowing that one day she will return.

We are introduced to Ofelia as a girl living in the world of her fairytale books and stories. On the way to The Captain, her mother has a touch of morning sickness and the procession of cars must stop while the mother is recovering. It is here that the seed of the other world is planted. While walking around, Ofelia notices a piece of stone on the road which has an eye carved into it, looking around in the forest she finds the statue that it belongs to and puts the piece back in its place which results in a fairy creature materializing. This creature becomes her herald and once at the military post, leads her through the labyrinth to meet her mentor, the Faun.

Ofelia is called on to perform three tasks to prove that her essence is still in tact and has not been spoiled by living amongst humans. She is committed to perform the tasks and the refusal of the call to adventure comes more from her mother, who has dressed her up in a pretty dress and wants Ofelia to give up her childish books and wanderings.

But our heroine is worthy of the task and disobeys her mother in order to perform the first task assigned to her, which involves her entering the other world via a tunnel at the base of an ancient fig tree. Her task is to destroy a toad which has been poisoning the fig tree, she successfully completes this but in the process her dress is ruined and her mother is very upset with her.

Meanwhile the other characters in the film are on their own journeys and more is revealed about the monstrous Captain and why he is the way he is.

Having completed the first task, the Faun warns Ofelia that the second task is very dangerous and she should be careful not to eat or drink anything in the place which she is about to enter. The little helpers which the Faun has provided seem to show her the wrong keyhole, she finds the correct one by using her instincts. This results in Ofelia ignoring the little helpers as they try to warn her not to give into the temptation of tasting some of the food at the sumptuous banquet table as she is about to leave. Two grapes are enough to awaken the monster guarding the table and two of the three little helpers pay with their lives. On her return the Faun is furious with Ofelia and breaks all contact with her.

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Here the heroine experiences a little death and is forced to reflect on what she has done. Everything around her is falling apart, her mother dies while giving birth and she is tormented by the heartless Captain. Having had enough she tries to escape with Mercedes (the sympathetic housekeeper) but they are captured and Ofelia is imprisoned in her room. It is here that the mentor returns and gives her another chance but warning her that this is her last chance.

In the final confrontation, Ofelia has fetched her recently-born brother and taken him to the centre of the labyrinth on the Faun’s orders. Here she finds out that the blood of her brother, an innocent, must be spilled in order for her to be free of the human world. In this climax she refuses to hand over the baby and her step-father emerges from the labyrinth, takes the baby and then shoots Ofelia. Ofelia’s blood, also an innocent, is spilled and she has fulfilled her final test.

She is taken to her father, the king of the fairy world as her body is grieved over by her human friends in the ordinary world. At the king’s court she is reunited with her family and rewarded for her actions.

A clear conformation between Ofelia’s journey in this film and the Mythic Cycle can be seen. Some areas are lightly touched upon but the structure is certainly present and can be readily recognised.

The characters in Pan’s Labyrinth demand a lot of attention, whether it be repulsion from The Captain’s evil acts, the uncertainty about the Faun’s motives or the motherly strength of Mercedes who has become the surrogate mother of Ofelia, they all keep the audience interested in what is going on. Add to that the surreal imagery of the other world, action-filled battle scenes of the human world and the mythological symbolism and we have a film which can be watched a number of times and still there will be more to discover.

As a very carefully thought-out film, I think removing any part of it would make the film suffer, but the story may still work. For example if the character of The Captain or Mercedes were not expanded upon then we would still understand Ofelia’s journey but it would be a less interesting story. If we omitted the slow descent into the other world and Ofelia went from Separation in the human world to her Ordeal in the fantasy world then I think the audience would get a jarring effect.

The Return quadrant of the mythic cycle has already been greatly deemphasised , so too the introduction of the ordinary world which is not laboured on and is only revealed through Ofelia’s brief conversation with her mum in the car as they are leaving for the military outpost.

In order to rewrite this story with some of the structural elements removed, I would emphasise the theme of temptation and take out the Initiation and Return, so our heroine fails to reach her original goal of returning to the fairy world because she has given in to her temptations. The Captain is killed before he can do Ofelia any harm and she survives and takes care of her little brother and finds happiness in doing this in her mortal life.

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The above two films have been examples which fit well into the conventional models of narrative structure but many films are not so clean cut. Run Lola Run for example works by breaking with linearity of time and going further and using it as a narrative device.Thirteen Conversations About One Thing also does not follow the conventional structure but keeps jumping back and forth in time and from one character to another but in the end the viewer is left with a complete image of what has occurred.