Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Hewitt and Walker's Completion! & Other News

Just got back from the printers this afternoon, which marks the final stage for the Hewitt and Walker History Of Cinema! I am meeting up with Ollie to oversee the final render of the film and burn it, ready to send off!

The design has been ongoing since the films conception, and has seen many different alterations. But this design not only matches the aesthetic of the film, but is in a style that I have been happy with for quite a while. Something of a rarity when you are as self critical as I am!

They look brilliant all folded in the box now. Spend the majority of the night folding them all!

If you want more information on The Hewitt & Walker History of Cinema, then become a fan of us on Facebook! We have around 80 fans already! But be sure to add your name to that select few, and if you like what you see, let us know! :D

In Other News:

• My Blog has been featured on the Official Vancouver Film School Blog! If you look back at previous posts, I did a day by day diary of what I got up to on my Vancouver Film School Summer Intensive. And they liked my blog enough to not only feature it, but give me a free T-Shirt :D Thank you VFS for not only having me, but endorsing my blog.

TeeFury have announced the date that they are going to be producing my TShirt! I won't say exactly what design is going to be printed, but you can probably guess. It will be featured on Friday, August 13 2010. Be sure to go and check out TeeFury in a fortnight to see my design, and if you like it, get a shirt! :D

• I have also uploaded 2 more posters to my Poster Design Blog, one of them being the 3rd in a 4 part Oddworld Poster series focusing on Strangers Wrath, shown below. The other being a Nerdfighters Poster! Visit my poster blog for all of them and more!

More Ameba News as it develops! I am out with Ollie tomorrow, so expect pictures and more news on Hewitt and Walker!

Monday, 26 July 2010

Day 5 at VFS

Last day! The early mornings and inspired late nights were starting to catch up with me. Nothing a coffee couldn't remedy though! And onwards towards my last day. Today we had 3D animation and character modelling!

3D Animation

When it comes to teaching 3D in Maya, the lines are so blurred between different disciplines that often the teachers go over things we had already  covered in previous lessons. But rather than a carbon copy of yesterdays character animation, this one took the basics of animating with Maya and reiterated it until we where at least confident using Maya by yourself. For me, going over the basics was just what I needed. After being pretty much self taught in 3D through trial and error, it was great to have professional tutoring. 

Our lesson consisted of a basic bouncing ball animation. But concentrated on getting that ball to bounce the best it could, applying the squash and stretch techniques we used in classical animation. We where all told that nothing is perfect, and that to make our future animations look more authentic, we had to distort the animation curves slightly, once you had the perfect ball. It was very satisfying getting it looking great! Then we did some texturing to get it looking swish.

Last lunch of the week was some more sandwiches. Lovely.

Then it was Visual Effects time! You could tell that some people had been looking forward to this one all week! The first half of the lesson was a lecture on everything that goes into making modern visual effects. And breakdowns of every aspect of the industry. After that, we had quick fire Maya tutorials! Starting with basic dynamics, texturing, modelling, shading, rigging, animating, cameras and lighting! Was amazing to get that level of teaching in just a couple of hours!

Then, towards the end, our course rep came around with our official VFS course completion certificates! Was hoping I would get something like that, going straight on my wall when I get home. 

They had one last treat for us, we went to the modelling room and where introduced to Zbrush! I have never used a program like it. It's more like sculpting in clay. And I loved it! We only had half an hour on it, but the introduction was massively helpful. Really can't wait to get home and start playing with it. A massively more intuitive way of modelling characters that need a lot of detail. 

Thus completes my week at Vancouver Film School! I'm so happy I had the opportunity to go. I met some massively inspirational people that have changed the way I approach animation and film. Who knows, hopefully I will end up back there! Even if I don't end up at VFS, Vancouver is such a beautiful city, I might just move there once my degree is over! Thanks for having me Canada!

Friday, 23 July 2010

VFS Day 4

Another early morning, and a brisk walk with a morning coffee to VFS's Animation building. Todays lessons where Acting for Animation and 3D Animation!

Acting For Animation

After a bit of room confusion we all bundled into the common room for our much anticipated Acting Class. By now we are starting to get to know each other, and can have a chat about what we expected of this class. Whatever each of us had thought acting was going to be, we where all wrong.

The guy teaching us came and sat down and made us each say what we think acting is. We all said variations of the illusion of characters or making an audience believe whats on screen. We where all right, but very wrong too. He taught us at speed the essence of characters in films and how and audience relates to them, and what it takes to convey emotion with characters.

From there we discussed how to construct a scene using specific examples from Ice Age and Shrek, and how each of them has different things to look out for. Im generalising here of course. He expressed distaste for acting classes that teach you to express yourself by acting as a tree, or a cloud or something like that. Not once has he needed to be a tree or a cloud. Or anything inanimate. Simplicity in the work is key. Something he didn't want us to forget in a hurry.

You could tell that he had years and years of different acting classes, and he had pulled out all the essentials and tried to cram in as much as he could in the 3 hour time slot. We each constructed a scene in pairs using the techniques he showed us, and we each had to talk about it. A fantastic exercise in writing. And I was itching to go home and start writing my own work!

3D Animation

After a sandwich lunch and a lengthy discussion about Pokémon with people, we made our way upstairs to the 3D animation room. Yesterday we learned how to make a fish swim, Today it was getting into making believable 3D animation using a simple bouncing ball animation. Having a bit of Maya knowledge already, I used this oppertunity to grill our tutor about some of the finer things about Maya, and any tips and shortcuts he can show me. Which he did. After then I decided to pick up a bit of zBrush in preparation for our lesson on it tomorrow. Something I really can't wait for! I got a small into to it from a guy called Logan on the course, and some of the stuff he had created was insane. Its such a more intuative way of making 3D models rather than staring with a Polygonal geometry in maya.

Overall I really feel like I am getting the best parts of a broad curriculum. I feel like I can go home soon and feel more ready than ever to get to work on my final year animation. I have a better understanding of story structure now to add to the mix. Its all coming together.

Inception tonight! Then my last day tomorrow! Including a trip to the VFS shop for some gifts for people back home :)

Oh, And a pixelated whale...


Thursday, 22 July 2010

Sunsets and Fireworks

Had to post something about my night.

Yesterday, our history tutor mentioned that there will be a huge firework display on down by the river thanks to a group called the Celebration of Light. So we all nodded and said that we would go and check it out if we weren't doing anything.

I walked over the bridge and saw a mass of people herding towards the coast, lining the beaches and crammed into the parks. After walking down I took my seat on a patch of grass in-between two giant sculptures and watched the sun set...

Then a couple of people from the course, plus some game design lot, came and sat with me and we waited for it to get dark enough. We chatted for a while, then as soon as the fireworks started our attention was diverted. We discussed the mechanics of fireworks and how brilliant it might be to have the general public be able to control it. The people next to us where talking about the free popcorn.

It was so cool just hearing the fireworks rumble through the mountains then back behind you. Anyone oblivious to the fireworks behind the mountains would first think of thunder, then an air raid.

Loved every minute. Pixels never do fireworks (or anything) justice, but I tried :)


VFS Day 2 & 3

Sorry to anyone who reads this for not updating yesterday, I got back from Tuesday completly burned out and slept for 10 hours. But, refreshed this morning I went right into Day 3.

Day 2

Against our scheduled timetable, we had History of Animation, and in the afternoon we completed our classical animation sessions with learning a walk cycle.

Apprehensive about History, we walked into the room to be greeted by a quietly enthusiastic guy. As soon as we all took our seats he dove right in with describing the specifics of how moving pictures and animation works on screen, onto different types of animation there are, to discussing what films have inspired us to come to VFS in the first place. A lot of people influenced by Pixar films, so he talked about what inspired John Lassater when he was at CalArts. One inperticular he showed us was Fredric Back's The Man Who Planted Trees. a 30 minute animation which is fantastic! We watched a few more films and had discussions about each of them. The most phenomenal one is a film made by doing finger paintings on glass called The Old Man and the Sea by Alexandra Petrov. A FINGER Painting! :O There where loads more. All in all you came away from the session with a more broad perspective of the whole of animation, rather than the diet of Disney that you usually get. It was brilliant to get a condensed 4 hour lecture from someone who really has a massive amount of knowledge and appreciation about the field. Rather than hating History of Art, I left wanting to come back for another lecture! Maybe next year.

Classical animation came to its conclusion for the week learning a walk cycle. Different to the sack of flour yesterday, being more planning and getting the movement right over 12 frames. Quite difficult, I went through about 3 different cycles before I got one that looked even remotely realistic. Its something you really have to keep doing over and over again. Which we did. Iain, the guy who was helping teach, when he wasn't teaching anyone, he would sit and draw. By the end of the session, he had a stack of paper about an inch thick that he had made during the afternoon, and each of us in the class had been drawn around 4 different times. Im very aware of my own circular shaped head...

The day finished with a few drinks with the people from Game Design on the other campus. Sat around our table where 2 Autralians, 2 Americans, 1 Mexican and 1 Englishman (me). You had to take a step back and see how VFS had brought people from nearly every continent together in one place. And these guys are really on fire about their fields. They love animation and game designing. Us all talking about our work was exculpating into a inspirationgasm, so we called it a night. After a few days of getting up early and staying up drawing, I was beat.

Day 3

Refreshed, I made my way to VFS for Life Drawing! With Adam Rogers, a guy who looked like a shorter Hugh Laurie with glasses. Neat!
He started talking about the specifics of how life drawing affects your view on the world, and how drawing people all the time improves your style and can bleed into whatever animation discipline you end up doing. His real passion for the subject really shone through, and it was almost infectious! We all went ahead and drew our model in 30 second poses and 10 second poses and so on. By the end of the session each of us had used almost a whole pad of paper. and looking at the first drawing we did compared to the last, everyones was a hundred times better. If that was a 4 hour session, extrapolate that to doing that every week for a year. The message was simple. More drawing makes you better. Im booking myself in for life drawing when I am back in Newcastle!

After scoffing the sandwiches, we made our way to the computer labs for our 3D animation session. We got our basic orientation onto the computers, then in came our tutor, called Magic Eslami. I had a basic knowledge of Maya, our 3D package we where using, but even I had trouble keeping up with the speed at which he wanted to teach us. By the end of the lesson we each had modelled a fish, gave it a skeleton, coloured it, parented it, skinned it and animated it. For me it was a great little recap of the basics, and learning the shortcuts and other really useful tips from a guy who had been teaching there for around 10 years! Here is my fish:

Tonight there is a HUGE firework display on around 10, so I'm heading out to that later on. Will put some pictures up of that. According to pretty much everyone who lives there, it should be something magical.

More tomorrow!

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

VFS Day One!

As you may or may not know, at the moment I am in Canada attending the Vancouver Film School's Animation and Visual Effects Summer Intensive Course! Today was my first day so I thought I would share what I have been up to!

Was up very early to get to Orientation on time across town. Upon signing in we where given a welcome pack, pens, a drinking bottle and a rucksack! We sat down and watched the intro presentation showcasing some of the work that has been created at VFS so far.
Shuttle Bus!
Then using our trendy key cards we made our way up to the Visual Effects and Animation floor. The first thing you notice is how proud the school is of its alumni and the things they have worked on. Immediately as you walk in there is a District 9 poster signed by Niel Bloomkamp and some of the Visual Effects team. As we where toured round each of the rooms we where greeted happily by the people in them before they explained what they did there. More posters, this time for Toy Story 3, 9 and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs to name a few. Lining the corridors are framed artworks from previous graduates, with a level of detail and precision and variation that someone could only dream of achieving. Before we had even sat down you where loaded with inspiration.

Todays lessons where firstly Introduction to classical animation, where we learned to bring personality and life into a sack of flour jumping off a table. And after lunch there was Character Design, lead by one of the most charismatic and happy guys I have ever had teach me.

Character Design had to be my favourite of the day. Taught by Mike West. Winding down in the afternoon watching some old Tex Avery cartoons, while being taught quick fire techniques to building some great characters, teaching us all the basics of how people relate to characters, along with which appeal to different age groups. The beginning of the session we where given a stack of paper and just told to keep drawing throughout the afternoon, each hour he gave us something new to try out. Here are some of the drawings I came up with today:

Once 4 o'clock came along we where free to wander the building as we wished, if we wanted to cary on animating from the morning we could just go back in and help ourselves. A few of us sat and chatted with Mike for a while about some of his work. Check out his blog for some examples.

Fully inspired I took to a few coffee shops at the end of the day to do some people watching and some drawing. Nice end to the first day, can't wait till tomorrow!


Monday, 19 July 2010

Toy Story 3: How Canadians Ruined It All (Some Potential Spoilers)

I was seven years old when the first Toy Story came to the UK. The perfect age to be magically taken away by visuals that even then I knew there was something new and unseen before, and if not for the strange and alluring visuals, but for the story. Every child imagines their toys come alive when they are not looking! And here they where all along, in the mind of John Lassater. Everything we children wanted from a film.

Then soon after, Toy Story 2 came along, and for me at my tender age, I felt that the story of Andy and his Toys had some sort of closure. The ending of the sequel capped off the films with a sense of optimism, and counter balanced the first outing like only a brilliant sequel does.

Then there is Toy Story 3. 11 years in the making, and by anyones standards a brilliant film. Unfortunately the cinema I saw it at was full of the most wretched slime of Vancouver, one in particular who thought it was wholly except able to guffaw at every opportunity that they could. Even the most poignant moment in the film (and there are a few) he felt like it deserved a chuckle. Because hey, this is a cartoon! Its here to make me laugh right? So if some of the comments seem a bit harsh for this otherwise 5 star film, my concentration and immersion was taken away by this man. May he stumble back in time and kill his grandfather so he never exists and butterfly effects his way into making this review better. Amen.

Toy Story 3 is a fantastic film. Perfectly put together and the animation, a quality that we have become accustomed to with Pixar Films, is the best they have ever created. Its something that every single person who worked on the film will be, and should be, proud of for the rest of their lives. But me being me, I still had a couple of little things wrong. Baby things. But ones that took me out of the moment and made me remember Im in a cinema again...

Toy Story 3 opens with a spectacular scene in which Woody and the toys are in a wild west chase scene, and as the story unveils it becomes clear that this is either in the eyes of Andy, or its what the toys experience while they are being played with. Personally I prefer to think of it as the latter, explaining why they would want to be played with all the time instead of going ahead and making a Toy Zion somewhere and christening it the homeland.
But as the scene develops, what strikes me most is Andy's lack of imagination. The characters that they portray are the same as the first film. For me this set the tone of the film as going to be filled with attempted nostalgia by making you remember the first ones. As if this one wouldn't be able to stand by itself. Lee Unkrich should have more faith in his storytelling. To me it seemed as wrong as people who say that there must be an Incredibles 2 because there is the Underminer at the end! With this instalment being "lightyears" ahead of the first two, to me it needed to be more separate, instead of constantly reminding us that the first two films existed.

And one you noticed that, its everywhere. If you know the previous films well enough you notice that a lot of the dialogue is reworked to mirror its original counterparts, such as "this is the perfect time to be hysterical". Then there are total reworked scenes that take essence from the oldies: Flashbacks, baddie comeuppance etc...

As I said before, this is probably down to my lack of total immersion in the film due to this now cursed man who was sat next to me. And as the infamous Facebook group put it: "ive been waiting 11 years to see this film", and it was ruined by someone who thinks every move on the screen needs to be rewarded by a chuckle. Sad smiley face time :(

It was a great film, and I am watching it again when I get back from Canada when the hype has died down in the UK over it, and yes I did well up at the ending, but probably more due to the fact that after waiting so long to see this film it was ruined and it wasn't effecting me as much as it should, and I will never be able to see it for the first time ever again.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

New Trailer, New Myspace!

Trailer is done! Myspace is done! (In more ways than one)

Go and check out what me and Ollie have been attacking all day! Today we finished our final trailer, and got ourselves a swanky little myspace page.

The film is in the final stages of completion, and I cant wait to get it out there for everyone to see. Head on over to the Myspace page to see our brand new trailer.

Very happy :)