Tuesday, 14 December 2010


I need to decide how the interactive narrative is going to flow.... Should it be puzzle solving, humorous, mysterious, incorporate fear/frustration? These are the important factors that I need to decide upon now. I know that I would like the story to have different paths, as we can have in life... one choice can twist and turn our lives in so many different ways. Decisions can culminate in disaster or joy, as fate decrees the sequence of events that construe our destiny. This is how I want the interaction to be - the user makes decisions which effect the storyline. I cannot distract the user so much that they are straining to work out how to navigate or what to do next, as too much distraction will stop them being immersed in the story, and although this is fine for gaming, this is not what I want for an immersive narrative. This also highlights how important the backgrounds and characters will be, because the user will need to form some kind of relationship in order to want to interact or care about what will happen next.

I have been continually pondering upon the story that this immersive animation could be based upon. My original thoughts were based around the folk tale from the Norske Folkeeventyr of Asbjornsen and Moe, called the East of the Sun and West of the Moon. I have a book of 'Old tales from the North' which is illustrated by Kay Nielson. The story interests me and the illustrations of Kay Nielson are inspirational. 

'Well mind and hold tight by my shaggy coat, and then there's nothing to fear,' said the Bear, so she rode a long, long way. (Page 10).
Unfortunately, I fear this may restrict me too much, although there are many twists and turns that could be taken in this story. It could still be a contender.... Another idea could be taken from a Russian tale. I was inspired by the 4 podcasts of Russian Wonder tales (one for each of the four weeks before Christmas) that started on the 1st December on www.toasttravels.co.uk. I am currently searching for the book: Russian Wonder Tales, but I would like one illustrated by Ivan Bilibin. 

The story is crucial and I need to make a decision in order to start anything. I keep thinking that I should keep the story more contemporary to keep the users interest - a thought here would be to take a story from the news and use the outline of that or just modernise an old tale..... I need to decide by the end of this week, otherwise this will go on and on and I will never even start it!

Research on Interactive animations

I had originally planned to create an animation around the poem 'The Door' by Miroslav Holub and have started a website based around this: The Lockless Door; but I have long been intrigued by interactive animations and this has been heightened by coming across some interactive films recently. They are classed as part art video game, part immersive entertainment. Touching Stories is an app featuring four interactive films made for the iPad. Touching Stories link

I think I can still incorporate the theme of the Door, but maybe make it interactive, the user could enter into other environments through different doors maybe.... 

Here is a link to Donna Leishman's interactive animation based around the theme of Red Riding Hood. I find this inspiring too, but would like to incorporate a mixed media style within my animation I think. 

Screenshots from Donna Leishmans Red Riding Hood (2000)

During my research around the Touching Stories app, I came accross a review which reads: Was very excited about the idea and it is definitely forward thinking, unfortunately the interaction is pretty banal and not really adding to the story. Also had a hard time figuring out how to navigate it. This is something I would need to be careful about. The interaction has to work effectively and although you want the user to have to think about how to navigate, it cannot be so difficult that they give up and don't bother immersing themselves into the world where the interactivity may lead them.

Caffe Latte, by Maria Avramova, 2007

I love this animation, it is quirky :)

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

The National Gallery's collaboration with Central St Martins College of Art

'Transcriptions Animation' is an innovative project which involves postgraduate animation students producing short films inspired by the Gallery's collection. I went to the screening of these animations and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I really enjoyed Mark Abbots 2D Animation called 'Bubblegum Splash'. I spoke to him after the show and he told me that it was created in Flash. I asked if he would come into College and talk to my students and he was a little shy, but I'm hoping he will come in as a guest speaker :).

Bubblegum Splash by Mark Abbot

This piece was said to be inspired by Claude, Landscape with the Marriage of Isaac and Rebecca 1648.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Subtle additions to animations

I have been trying to upload the updated version of the non linear animation since last night (was up until early hours of the morning trying to be patient, but now I have spent too much time again this afternoon and it will not upload).... I hate to submit to defeat, but currently I cannot put the updated version on here. The original version is on a previous post. I think I will continue to develop it as although it is now submitted I have ideas of adding short, repetitive looped walks moving around as if they are in another dimension completely and I could also add more animation within it. It will continue to evolve :)

Jarah woodland creatures

As mentioned in the previous post, this animation was primarily used to develop masking techniques with 2D and real footage. I have added some hands for the smoke blowing character to hang on with, so very subtle changes made here.

2D Digital Animation Developments: Evaluative review

The experience of developing the animations for this module has been a huge journey for me. I encountered many problems, but eventually found solutions and ultimately gained more knowledge of using video and masking techniques within Flash. I facilitated self directed learning with Premiere Pro in order for me to achieve my aims and also improved software skills within After Effects. Even with Flash, I initially encountered a fairly steep learning curve due to using an updated verstion of the software (from Macromedia Flash 8 to Adobe Flash CS4), but now feel that the overall experience has helped to improve my skills and knowledge vastly.

During 2009, I viewed an animated music video created by Kristofer Strom, Minilogue - Animals (2009), which won a silver prize at Kolla.se in the same year. I had previously been impressed by Strom's whiteboard animations that were used for the Carphone Warehouse campaigns, but when I saw Minilogue - Animals, I was captivated. It inspired me to think about using masking in Flash in order to combine 2D animation into live footage.

Minologue - Animals. Directed by Kristofer Strom

The simple, but lively animations blend into the footage and although the whole animation is pretty abstract and non-narrative – it successfully captures your attention as each scene jumps out at the viewer with intense vibrancy.
Another example of utilising mixed media and 2D animation is a trailer for the 2009 East End Film Festival, directed and designed by Lucy Izzard, an animation director and illustrator based at Slinky Pictures. Photographs were taken around the East End and were used within the animation to depict changing scenes, and as the foundation for the animated characters. 

  East End Film Festival trailer. Directed by Lucy Izzard

This trailer is a variation of the theme as it is an example of blending 2D animation with photography rather than film footage, but the simplistic style of the animation fits nicely within the photographic image.

This fusion of real footage and 2D animation communicates effectively within a wide range of mediums: music videos, TV idents/stings, web and TV Flash series’, TV and web advertising, educational animations, documentaries, film and TV intros, corporate training, animated shorts, viral YouTube promos, TV gap fillers, flash banners, film/TV/festival trailers; the opportunities are endless within our visually frenzied culture. There is still a place for 2D at the forefront of animation, particularly when used within a hybrid blend of mixed media. Immediately, this brings 2D into the 21st Century and it can look fresher and more stimulating than some of the mainstream, synthetic and hyperreal 3D that has now become the norm. In 2003, there was talk of animation being dead (Ryan Ball, 2D Animation: Dead, dying or Just Napping), but if 2D was caught napping; in 2010 - it is wide awake within the medium of mixed media. In the words of Lev Manovich, we are using ‘the language of hybridity’.
My first foray into experimenting with hybridity was by using film and masking within Flash - it worked out quite well and I did not encounter many problems – this was with Flash 8. Flash CS4 changed quite dramatically. One of the changes was that you can no longer directly import Quick Time movies – they have to be converted to FLV’s in Adobe’s Media Encoder, this was not too problematic, but adds to the overall timescale. Embedding a Quick Time movie into Macromedia Flash was very straightforward, I don’t know why Adobe have changed this.

There is currently an ongoing argument with Apple & Adobe due to the lack of support for Flash in the iPad, iPod Touch or the iPhone. Adobe rectified this with CS5, but Apple blocked that too. It was reported that Adobe were going to sue Apple for ‘restraint of trade’, and also rumours that Apple are developing their own version of Flash. There have been no official statements from Adobe or Apple, but the rumours are still ongoing.
There was talk of Adobe improving the importing of movies within Flash, I do not feel this is the case because when you import a movie and embed it into the timeline, it does not always import the sound effectively. This only happens when the movie was embedded into the timeline, not if the FLV was a player. Fortunately I did not need the whole of the movie’s sounds for the animation in which I was developing the masking technique and I also did not need any background sound kept with the time lapse footage, but if the sound had been needed throughout the movies, it would have meant that the sound would need to be stripped from the original footage and added separately, which would have lengthened the procedure.

I was pleased with the masking techniques used within the first animation. It was time consuming, but it was worth the effort. I had a few problems initially when I nested animations within movie clips and then masked them, because the nested animation would not work at all, but I realised that if I changed the mc’s to graphic symbols within the Properties Inspector, everything functioned again. I used the bone tool for the cloud carriers that hang from the ‘flying island’. The bone tool is new to CS4 and incorporates inverse kinematics, which uses an articulated structure of bones to create movement, this is more sophisticated and complex than using the hinge rotation technique. By focusing on the techniques, I felt that although I had a range of problems with the video camera that I used and consequently the quality of the footage, I managed to improve my knowledge and skills within Flash with this animation. Below are examples of some of the nested animations.
                             'flying island'

For the topic of Non linear time and space, I researched non linear dynamics, better known as the chaos theory: 
www.encyclopedia.com/topic/nonlinear_dynamics.aspx (accessed: 15.6.10) and  Topotransegrity – Non-Linear Responsive Environments – Robert Neumayr (accessed: 15.6.10).

The research led me to think about time lapse photography and  speeding and slowing down movement and putting different time levels into the same space.
My original thoughts for this animation were based around: 
  • the ebb and flow of the wind
  • Non linear urban environment - jumping from scene to scene in a non linear fashion - voyeuristic views into windows of high rise flats... jumping backwards and forwards in time.

The development of this animation also enabled me to learn new skills, but in a different software (Premiere Pro). I wanted to speed up and slow down the footage and searched for this technique and found a very good tutorial, which helped me to achieve my aims by using keyframes to set points within the timeline where I could speed up and slow down. I also experimented with time lapse photography, which I had never attempted before, which I found intriguing, but less easy to manipulate. I imported the edited footage into Flash, and used some masking within this movie, but not on the same scale as the first one. I also used nested animations, frame by frame, masking and rotoscope within this movie. 

Overall, this module has helped me to develop and enhance a range of skills in Flash, develop skills to take Flash into After Effects and to learn new skills in order to use software that is new to me in order to achieve my aims. 

Digital Images from non linear animation




Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Inspirational artist - Pascal Campion

I just stumbled upon this video based on Pascal Campion its interesting viewing and he comments on drawing, storytelling, and the fear of sharing your artwork.

Finally got a new scanner :)

Got a new scanner - not the one that I really wanted because it's too pricey, but the one I got does the job for now. At least I can finally upload some of the sketches from my sketchbook. Here are some of the ideas for the non linear animation. I drew a few pages based around eyes as I wanted to put an eye looking out from the Ten Bells pub ~ this is linked to a number of things such as;
  • the pub being so old and its as if its soul is watching all that goes on. 
  • Mary Kelly spent her last hours at the pub before 'Jack the Ripper' murdered her and the eye or the soul of the building is now keeping an eye on everything that passes it by. 
  • The eye has links to the 'Big Brother' outlook of this country - cameras watching you everywhere you go - to the point that they become almost invisible as we become less aware of them watching us....

This page of sketches has more connotations with the link to Jack the Ripper

Monday, 9 August 2010

Motion Tracking - After Effects

Been trying out motion tracking today - I found a tutorial on You Tube & thought how useful this would have been to use on an animation I was previously working on in Flash. I spent ages trying to put in a black shadow to look like a hole in a wooden stake that I wanted to have a creature pop out of. I had lots of problems because I hadn't used a tripod and consequently the footage was moving all over the place and to try to make the hole appear as if it was sitting on the wooden stake was just impossible and looked amateurish. I spent a lot of time trying to make it move with the footage using frame by frame!! I then deleted it because it looked so rubbish!

The motion tracking in After Effects is perfect for this problem, but I tried it out on the Flash animation and the tracker had a problem - I think it is because I have two sequences of footage within the same movie and it confuses it. A great feature though - I have come to the conclusion that I must keep learning techniques within After Effects, I need to do this while I've got a short window of time before getting back into prep for the new academic year that is looming.

Here is a Motion Tracking tutorial from YouTube. (Best viewed within YouTube).

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Flash & After Effects

Forgot to mention that before I started on the non linear animation that I had been working through a Flash & After Effects book. It's a good book for Flashites who are trying to learn After Effects. Sparodically I have worked through the chapter tutorials that were appropriate to me. It is called 'Flash + After Effects' [Chris Jackson, Focal Press] and it's been helpful to me, as I'm new to After Effects. It comes with a DVD with all the Chapter files on it so that you can complete the tutorials. Below is the first tutorial that I completed from Chapter 1. Some of it is basic stuff, but it includes a range of techniques that are good to learn.

Below are a couple of other tutorials: one from Chaper 3 and one from Chapter 7. The Swashbuckler from Chapter 3 uses the puppet tool to create a sequence of png's to import into Flash and the Fairy (Chaper 7), uses parenting & Expressions and the bubble effect for the fairy dust.

New thoughts

By stepping away from the non linear animation & having time to reflect - I've had some good ideas to enhance it. I'm going to add some rotoscope to the passers by. When I add to it, I will upload the newer version.

I'm off out to get a scanner so that I can scan in some of my sketches - I've been too long without one... madness.

I have uploaded a website based around the next animation ~ The Lockless Door.  The gallery is playing up though, so I will need to make adjustments to that. Not sure what happened there... it was working fine when I last closed Flash (or so I thought).

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

2D animation developments

Finally started the summer break (well sort of - still loads of prep work to do for the new academic year..), whinge, whinge :D. It has given me a few days to focus on the non-linear time & space animation though. I cut the footage down a lot from the original, but in doing so, I lost some funny moments that occured during filming that I could have played around with - but I made a choice with what I cut out and stuck with it and also learnt a few techniques within Premiere along the way (putting in keyframes, speeding up & slowing down sections). The footage is still too long - but I really didn't feel that I could cut much more from it.
The Ten Bells
I did some research on the 'Ten Bells' pub (where I shot the footage) & was surprised to find out the history behind it. It was once called 'Jack the Ripper'. Apparently Mary Kelly (the final victim of the notorious 'Jack the Ripper'), was last seen in the pub before she was murdered. I got slightly side tracked by the whole Jack the Ripper story and went on the Met History web pages regarding the facts and fiction behind the murders; this has culminated on many a conversation regarding the theories around the murders; but back to the animation....

I learned a lot of lessons from the previous filming. Number one was to USE A TRIPOD! Stupid mistake on the other filming that ended up a huge problem when trying to mask & everything is moving around. It made everything ten times longer to do - this was not something I was going to repeat! Also, it is so important to edit the footage, rather than just take the film, then plonk it in Flash to use - not good either, it just doesn't provide much impact. I would have liked to play around in Premiere more to create more blends & overlays, but time is of essence as always & I needed to crack on, so once I cut the film up & manipulated its speed I took it into Flash. I have now run out of time, but I will go back to this animation to add a lot more & tweak what I have already done, because although I wanted this to be disjointed, it could flow better & needs more time given to it.  I have added a few little things that are more subtle & that may only be noticed on a second viewing. There are numerous sequences that I worked on that I scrapped as they didn't work well, and as I've mentioned, I would like to work on it a quite a bit more, and hope to do so before returning to work as there are gaps where more animation is needed.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

It's been so long!

I was shocked to see the last time I had posted an entry! It has been crazily manic at work since Christmas & the time has flown, but still, that's a shockingly long gap!

I'm still ploughing through the MA. Currently I'm working on an animation based on: Non linear time & space. I went to Spitalfields on Sunday (a few weeks ago) for a recce and took some time lapse photography with a lovely camera that one of my students lent me (Panasonic HDC-HS700) - it was on a beautiful, sunny & hot day but was a nightmare travelling on the train... I got some footage, but it was only 3 seconds long even though I took the photos continuously for around 40 minutes (by then the battery ran out). I went to Spitalfields again last Sunday (another hot one), and on the suggestion of a fellow tutor I took an hour of film with a College camera, so that I could speed it up & slow it down in Premiere or Final Cut.

During my venture to Spitalfields, I stumbled across an excellent artist/illustrator, his name is Tom Lewis, I asked him if he had ever thought about animating his characters & he told me that a studio was currently interested in doing that, so I will keep a look out on his website for the animation (www.tomlewis.co.uk). I also thought he would be a great person to come in & talk to the students about character design. See a couple of examples of his illustrations below:
........Back to the filming - I had found a pub on a corner (the previous Sunday), that had real character, but I took it from a different angle this time and got a bit closer to aim more at the passers by in more detail. I had a bit of trouble with Premiere, as I have not used it before. I couldn't work out how to capture the footage as I am so used to using digital rather than mini dv tape. I spoke to Suzanne from Media, at work and she explained how to capture the footage and I finally got somewhere. I did a search on the Internet for how to speed up & slow down the footage & found a good video tutorial: http://layersmagazine.com/time-remap-in-premiere-pro.html  - after viewing the tutorial, it was straightforward to speed up and slow down sections of footage. [I will put the footage up here at some point, so that the before and after can be viewed]. I am now working on the characters that I want to place into the animation. I was pretty lucky with the footage as there are quite a few appropriate moments that I can get the animated characters to interact with the passers by. This makes a refreshing change as prior to this I was working on a mixed media animation that just would not go right.....

I had a digital video camera bought for me for Christmas (with a hard drive), so I ventured out just after the snow cleared to take some footage - while I was filming, I slipped and hurt my dodgy arm - then I had sooooo much trouble getting the footage from the camera, I spent most of the Christmas hols trying to sort it out, then when I did get the footage, the quality was awful :( I then took it into After Effects...... another new venture for me...... and I tried to enhance it as much as I could and tried to keep going with making this animation. In the meantime I took the offending video camera back because I was not impressed - but kept persevering with creating some characters and experimenting with the masking techniques in Flash to incorporate the 2D with the live footage. I had such a mare with that as well. I was making movie clip animations and could not work out why the masking wasn't working????? It took so many hours of wasted time to realise that I had to turn the movie clips into graphic symbols as for some reason masking will not work with those movie clips!!! Aaaaaagh.... so much time wasted on that! Another thing I found out from working with this animation is that Flash couldn't cope if I put the footage into a movie clip. It went comotose and kept spinning the little circle for eternity - I had wanted to zoom into the film within Flash - but Flash Said NO!! Anyway, suffice to say that even after so much time and effort the animation was as flat as a pancake - so I am now relieved to leave it behind and move on with something new! The only salvation is that some of the masking is good and it has helped me to develop the use of masking, so I'll be brave and put the animation here, even though it is dire - it shows the techniques I was working on.

Here are some ideas that I had for this; from my sketchbook:

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