Friday, 29 January 2016

"Ziggy" - Ziggy Influence Map

Here's a few of the sources I'm pulling from for the design of Ziggy; a mixture of real reference with some of the animated influences too.

Ziggy - Character development

In partly basing my story on that of Laika's, I wanted to keep Ziggy relatively similar in terms of breed, So I gathered images of Laika and began to do rough sketches, firstly trying to get used to the shapes at play and secondly to develop a style that I wanted to stick with. Laika was a mongrel and so I've gone for a slightly scruffy almost scrappy design, as I'm trying to make a distinction between Ziggy and characters like Bolt.

I then began to play about with the shapes, trying to imbue Ziggy with some form of innocence, but also a confidence. I think I have achieved that in some of these. Inkeeping with the idea of

I'm keen to explore the idea further, perhaps trying to achieve a stylised realism in the way Ziggy, and his world will be realised, as the animation is basically an alternate timeline story it just makes a lot of sense to keep things grounded in reality. I'm going to carry on experimenting with faces but I feel like I'm going in the right direction with some of these, particularly the final two images (Ziggy in his suit - not the final design - and Ziggy in his undersuit). I'm looking at official images of both Laika and the Apollo missions to maintain the aesthetics I'm aiming for.

Back to work!



UV Texture grid tutorial.

I had a go at the UV texture grid tutorial that was shared on the main blog - the tutorial can be found here http://www.northern-studios.com/uv-grid-for-beginners/ - quite a nice little tutorial, and It's good that I roughly know how to make one if ever I find myself in need.

(Not too sure on the colours, too acrid, but I can always change them)

There we go, much better. 

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Character/Environment Design - 03

Last Wednesdays session with Justin focused on environment design. To start, we were given a randomised place - mine was an insane/whimsical saloon. 

So that's what I set out to achieve, and although I started off designing the characters who would inhabit this saloon, I think it really helped me get a sense of what the place would feel like. To this end I have created a tea room amidst an arid desert, where tough outlaws come to let their sensitive sides out without fear of reproach. That's my take on insane. 

So this turned into a subtle design project, wherein I tried to merge the sensibilities of a european cafe with that of a typical western saloon. 

A Canine Oddity - Screenplay.

So here's a draft of "A Canine Oddity". I'm in two minds as to whether I should flesh it out a bit more, but I do think that I've included the necessary information with regards to plot and direction.

I also wonder if I should try to include more camera direction within the script, and pacing - as in including beat in order to signify pauses in dialogue and actions.

But otherwise, yeah, it's all there. I'm really happy with it and I'm looking forward to getting to grips with the design aspect of this project.

Next I'll upload some influence maps with regards to the design of Ziggy himself and the direction I'd like to go with the setting, as the main locations will be the interior of the waxworks, the interior of the Apollo 11 and its exterior.




Flash - Abstract taste animation

A couple of weeks ago, Meg gave us the task of creating an animation based on a taste, I chose coffee, but was quite determined to try and achieve something different from what you would expect. I imagined the bitterness of black coffee, the warmth, and the cloying aftertaste.

I imagined them as peaks, creating some form of jagged landscape, followed by a bitter expansion of flavor. My colour choice is perhaps not as evocative of this as I had intended, I think perhaps I chose the blue because it contrasted nicely with the off-brown background, So I will update with a few versions to further test the waters.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Adobe Audition 03 - Panning & creating sound within audition.

Had a pretty interesting session in Audition today, further experimentation with building a soundscape and creating a fuller space via the use of the left and right channels.

Learning how to generate tones within Audition itself is a great feature, one that I feel will be tremendously useful for the soundscape projects.

Maya Tutorial 11 - Animation

Had a lot of fun with these tutorials, and it was a fine opportunity to meld the skills we've developed with Meg's flash sessions with the stuff we're doing in maya.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Life drawing update, the seventh! (Post 100!!!)

As is the norm for these sessions, it took me a while to find a groove. I'm quite happy with some of the poses here though, and Robin was quite fun to draw. I plan on doing a few more studies later on, just to follow this up and strike whilst the iron is hot so to speak. I'm finding it a bit easier to include foreshortening and weight in my drawings. I think this shows in the last pose. I am particularly fond of that left hand! 

I think I'm starting to reduce my line-work into something more akin to Mike Mignola (creator of and artist for Hellboy) Which I can't say is a bad thing. 

"Psycho" (1960) - A review.

Fig 1.
Psycho” (1960) by Alfred Hitchcock concerns the theft of $40,000. But it is so much more than this simple act; being a mere catalyst for an increasingly engrossing series of events that center on the iconic “Bates Motel” and its inhabitants. Featuring a chilling score and a “plot twist” ending that promises to catch even modern audiences out.  Psycho is the rare example of the film that gets almost everything right - condescending ending monologue aside - Psycho might just be perfect.
A sweeping statement indeed, but reduced to salient points it becomes easy to talk about Psycho’s successes. The structure itself is interesting, “For the film's first three-quarters of an hour the audience has followed Janet Leigh's Marion Crane”...”Then in an electrifyingly brutal scene, as Marion readies herself for bed with a shower in the decrepit Bates Motel, she is hacked to death by a barely-glimpsed old woman.” (Robb, 2010) The audience is then left with Marion’s absence and the uncertainty it brings. What is perhaps most intriguing about this set-up is Hitchcock’s care in developing Marion; treating her as a main character, only to be revealed as merely the vehicle necessary in getting us to Bates motel. It certainly seems as though Hitchcock is meticulously engineering our own response, the way in which we end up sympathising with Norman after Marion’s death is a subtle yet deliberate contrivance that is necessary in realising the felling blow, the twist ending. Such an ending would fall flat without the precursory elements smoothly falling into place.  

Fig 2.
To consider more technical aspects of Psycho is to mention the deliberacy of its almost lo-fi aesthetics. Roger Ebert mentions that “Hitchcock deliberately wanted "Psycho" to look like a cheap exploitation film” (Ebert, 1998) and certainly the visceral nature film of that ilk cloak themselves in can be seen to add, rather than detract. In utilising this style, the audience is kept further on the edge of their seat, tense at the unpredictability of proceedings. The editing is punchy and simplistic in places, but Hitchcock finds time to include his guiding shots; those that convey more meaning in a few seconds than a couple of lines of dialogue ever could. Psycho features a terrific use of one such “guiding shot” wherein it is conveyed of Marion, that she is planning to steal the money and leave town, all in the space of a few seconds with the aid of a lingering closeup that focuses on Marion, the money and her travel case.
Fig 3.

To then consider the sound design - scored by Bernard Herrmann - featuring string music that contributes itself as a dark, brooding and ominous score, drawing the audience ever closer into the world of the Bates motel. Perhaps the most recognisable element being the “...violins wailing away during Psycho's shower murder scene” which have achieved the status of cultural shorthand - denoting imminent violent insanity.” (Robb, 2010) There is something that occurs here, this sound that suddenly completes this world, this world that becomes all too real, it’s themes and questions perhaps titillating, or even brokering on something more taboo. A sense of heightened realism is then achieved through the aesthetic DNA that Psycho is comprised of.

Psycho is an effective, thought provoking piece. An exercise in toying with the audience, Hitchcock delivers with all guns blazing.


Ebert, Roger. 'Psycho, Review'. rogerebert.com. [online] Available at: http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-psycho-1960 [Accessed 25 Jan. 2016]

Robb, Stephen. ‘How Psycho changed cinema’. news.bbc.co.uk. [online] Available at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/8593508.stm [Accessed 25 Jan. 2016]


Fig 1. Psycho poster. [image] Available at: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/b/b9/Psycho_(1960).jpg

Fig 2. Hitchcock with clapperboard. [image] Available at: https://image.roku.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/psycho.jpg

Fig 3. Norman stares at us. [image] Available at: https://cindyagoncillo.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/norman-bates-men.png

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Character Design - 02

Week 2
Week 2

Week 2

Week 2

Week 3

I think I'm starting to hit my stride with this stuff,  I can certainly see myself grow a little bolder in week 3, and I'm actually really happy with my final Obelix drawing as well as the chubby Darth Vader I drew in week 2. There's a tad more to upload with regards to the anthropomorphic design for objects in a room, for which I was assigned a crypt/chapel. With Justin's encouragement I settled on turning an organ into Hitler.

I promise that WILL be uploaded, when I find the nerve and also work on the problem of what church objects I can turn into Nazis ;)

That's a sentence I never thought I'd have to write.




Monday, 18 January 2016

Maya tutorial 10 - Pre-Viz "Mega post"

I'm very happy to be doing a bit of camera work :)

I really enjoyed using the different rigs in these tutorials. And I also learned the name of a technique that has been beguiling me for a long time - Contra zoom! I guess it's kind of cheesy by today's standards but it holds a special place in my heart. Accompanied by some sort of violent outburst of strings it still never fails to heighten the weirdness in a piece.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Script to screen: Thoughts on story, the blue box words and beyond.

So, my initial ideas coming from these words were quite literal. Things that lacked an emotional through-line with which to draw the viewer through with. I was thinking about earth astronauts crashing into an off-world wax museum, An invasion force of aliens coming down to Madame Tussaud and being horrified - so much so that they would leave earth in a hurry. But to me, these things would almost seem easy, they would play out from A-B-C, end nicely and wouldn't fully explore these words in a satisfying way. It was almost pulpy, something that would be easily viewed but also easily forgot.

My mind flitted to Sci-Fi, perhaps Horror. But I think I knew that I didn't really want to go down that route, I wanted to go against what instinct/overexposure told me to do. Obviously there's a difference between wanting something to be endearing and actually achieving it, but my intent is definitely there.

Astronaut, was perhaps the easiest word of the three for me to work with. I can do that, its something that I have an interest in, Always I have these evocations about grand adventure, almost in a romanticized way. I think the grappling hook could well be as literal as I want it to be, perhaps not in design but in usage, for it is something which can either save a persons life, or help them attain an item or something, that otherwise eludes them by conventional attempts. So the only word that I had a problem in slotting with the others was the Waxworks.

Thankfully, after speaking to Phil, some form of story started slotting into...space. I discussed that I didn't want the astronaut to necessarily be human, or even humanoid for that matter. I mentioned the story of Laika, a Russian cosmonaut who happened to be a dog. She was used to test the impact of a launch and micro-gravity on a living body, this was to pave the way for human space flight. The sad fact is that they had no way to bring her back down, and indeed factored her death into things. That story has always stuck with me and in some ways I'd like to honor Laika.

In response to this Phil had a brilliant idea about involving a space dog being this 'unsung hero' of a mission. "This was it!" I thought.

I had my emotional through-line.

Now, The idea of the waxworks being the framing device for the whole scene came up, and this led me or Phil - I'm not sure at this point - along to the idea of a boy and his parents viewing a kind of "The evolution of space" displays wherein we see a suspicious display of a rather proud astronaut, and by his side an absence, a space where something was.

My story will center on that absence.

(I've also just worked out the name for the Dog, I thought I'd also honor another of my heroes, David Bowie, by calling him Ziggy, it just seemed so natural that I cannot seem to un-think this)

Currently I'm writing up a basic draft of the things we discussed after this, but I'm aware that this is a long post. I'll update tomorrow on further machinations.



"Rope" (1948) - A review.

Fig 1.
Rope (1948) by Alfred Hitchcock, concerns Brandon, Phillip and their murder of an old classmate - David Kentley. Stuffing his body in a chest, proudly placed in the center of a room, the two will soon be receiving guests. Most interesting to note of Rope is that this act occurs mere moments into the film, and we watch with baited breath as the duo try to get away with it as their guests slowly piece together the whereabouts of David. Through the editing, or lack of, tension is ever present; employed over the course of the movie is the illusion that it is a single, unending shot; the viewer is never allowed reprieve. Rope unfolds like a play, in terms of its often static cinematography, limited locations and rather flowery dialogue that often pits itself within the description and application of morality and discusses its need.

Described as an experiment that didn’t work out, Rope utilises techniques that seek to ground its audience within the exact moment of the party. “Once the characters have entered the room, there can’t be any jumps in time, or the suspense will be lost. The audience must know that the body is always right there in the trunk.” (Ebert, 1984) This is tied intrinsically to the films very production. The production explored its own limitations by centering its construction around the length of film that could be loaded in each camera, namely 10 minutes. “He loaded his camera with 10 minute magazines of film, he arranged the screenplay in 10-minute sections, and at the end of each section he used an “invisible wipe” to get to the next magazine” (Ebert, 1984) Often utilising gimmicks such as passing closely behind someone’s back or passing behind a chair in order to hide the reel change to maintain the illusion of a one shot film.
Fig 2.
In some instances, the camera, instead of focusing on characters during dialogue, just sits them partially obscured at the side. Writing for DenOfGeek, Ryan Lambie muses that “As the camera roves around the grim party, the audience becomes an invisible gatecrasher” (Lambie, 2014) And this really embellishes the idea of the experiment, and also that we are a fly on the wall and privy to all of the goings-on that this party has offered us, which really adds to the inherent tension the “corpse-in-the-box” scenario generates.

It is then, interesting to consider Rope and this idea of artificiality that these creative choices have helped generate. The set is obvious and necessary for what Hitchcock was trying to achieve in terms of cinematography - and the idea that we are watching an entire segment of time unfold. The story is bent to allow for these conceits and the whole concept is centered around the real life limitation of the continuous shot. These choices only carry Rope onwards and heighten the tension further, as the implied claustrophobia of a stage focuses our gaze further. Further towards the box, where David lies, dead.

Fig 3.

This is Hitchcock in an emboldened mood, tinkering with what can be done with the medium and ultimately inspiring others to do the same. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014) by director Alejandro González Iñárritu is highly reminiscent of Rope and you can see its DNA most clearly here. Continuous shots - achieved with visual effects - achieve a frenzy and high tension that could only be possible because of Rope.

Rope. An experiment that didn’t work? No, an experiment that posits a line of thought about how to focus an audience on exactly what you want them to think and feel. A true success by today's standards of filmmaking.


Ebert, Roger. 'Rope, review'. rogerebert.com. [online] Available at: http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/rope-1948 [Accessed 17 Jan. 2016]

Lambie, Ryan. In praise of Alfred Hitchcock's Rope’. denofgeek.com. [online] Available at:
http://www.denofgeek.com/movies/rope/29836/in-praise-of-alfred-hitchcocks-rope [Accessed 17 Jan. 2016]


Fig 1. Rope poster. [image] Available at: https://bandbent.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/rope-poster.jpg

Fig 2. David dying. [Image] Available at: https://thehitchcockreport.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/00201.jpg

Fig 3. The chest. [image] Available at: http://criticsloft.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Rope-pic-1.jpg

Further viewing

https://vimeo.com/76087987 - Hiding the cuts in "Rope".

Raiders of the lost ark - Animatic

Raiders of the lost ark - Animatic from Joseph Crouch on Vimeo.

Having used Premiere before, it was nice to get back into the seat and see the changes in CS6, I also used After Effects to generate a bit of motion into proceedings.

I think I'm going to need to work on my drawing a bit more, I'm quite happy with some of the frames, but in others I think I've been a bit too heavy handed with the lines. These are good practice for what is to come though! :)

Raiders of the lost ark - Like for like storyboard

I had a lot of fun going over Raiders again, particularly because I think it's shot impeccably. Most of the shots are long and sustained, giving the characters a focus I think a lot of newer action cinema lacks.

I've chosen to focus on the bar scene where Indy reunites with Marian, after what we are left to believe is a long time. It's a fun scene and I'm a big fan of the dramatic lighting, in particular the way in which Indy's shadow is cast on the wall.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Flash - Abstract smell animation

It is dubious as to whether this represents the smell of Orange all that well, though I think that with extension and a little more work I can get it "there".

Still, it's kind of mesmerising.

I want to stop looking, honest.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Adobe Audition 01 - Roar practice

I've only ever used audacity to record and mix various sound projects, so coming to Audition was a mixed bag, on the one hand its features were familiar enough that I knew roughly what I was doing, but then theres the coming to terms with a new layout, happily I can then say that the layout is much better than Audacity. Much more user friendly.

If you haven't already guessed, I took the new Godzilla roar to mind when creating this.

It certainly differs from the majority of my recorded stuff.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Maya Tutorial 09 - Tileable Textures & Substance Materials

After touching upon tileable textures with Jordan last year, it was nice to have a refresher and to dive into the technique a bit more. 

I'm really impressed with the creation of such textures, and the application of bump maps and specular variations of imagery, to make things that much more impactful. 

Discovering the substance materials was handy, if anything, to see how textures can be created within Maya. 

Friday, 8 January 2016

Adobe story - The Lost Boys (1982)

I need to watch this again.

For those of you who haven't watched The Lost Boys, go and change that. This probably isn't the best advert for it. Buuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuut...

Just trust me.

Character Design - 01

Chubby Hitchhiker Hulk

Swamp-thing Hulk
Simplified Hulk
Following on from Wednesdays character creation introduction from Justin, here's a selection of results...

The importance placed on shape and character cannot be understated, and It was eye-opening to see how much of an effect a triangle in the right place can change the way your character is viewed.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Soundscape image selection

Whilst the start of a project can be a time of apprehension, confusion and palpitations - I remain quite excited by the prospect of these three images.  I guess that is the power of the mysterious blue box? 

The first, on initial inspection, strikes me as something very lovecraftian, something of the deep, perhaps subterranean though perhaps not. 

I struggle with this one, perhaps to resist becoming too dark in thought, but from distance it looks as though lost souls are vying to escape this shape. Although it is colourful my mind has already decided that it is an eerie sight. Some weird Miasma floating in the sky. 

I am reminded of a cracked LCD screen, its contents bleeding out to form this patternation. Though there is something insectile about it also. 

I'll be fleshing these thoughts out further, I know better than to immediately trust first impressions, though they do indeed offer a fertile starting place. Ideation incoming!

Life drawing update, the sixth!

5 minute poses

20 minute pose, edited. 
Experimentation with pointillism

As this was the first life drawing class since the christmas break, It was good to have a subject to draw again. I tried to do something different in each piece, this session. I think I will be taking pointillism further in my own studies, but I also quite enjoy the second image as I tried to be a bit bolder with colour, and further to that, making something altogether "new" in a post edit. 

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

"La Jetée" (1962) - A review.

Fig 1.

La Jetée (1962) directed by Chris Marker is an experimental short film concerning time travel, the extent of its reach felt in movies such as Terminator, 12 Monkeys and scores of other lesser films concerning time travel - perhaps “Somewhere in time” (1980) which utilises a similar device for time travel, sending a mind through time. Primarily utilising still imagery with rapid cuts to convey the story. At 28 minutes, La Jetée never outstays it’s welcome despite its use of media, and in fact benefits from it. Centering on a young boy at an airport that spies a beautiful woman before witnessing the mysterious death of a man by an unknown assassin before skipping through an atomic war that has rended Earth inhospitable and unable to support life; the boy - now a man - becomes a feasible test subject for time travel experiments due to his strong connection to the past, in particular the image of the woman, and the dying man; resulting in a series of time travel experiments in order to obtain supplies to restart the human effort.

Fig 2.
Perhaps most notable of La Jetée is its use of still imagery. A device it uses almost narratively during proceedings, for it replicates a sense of the dreamlike; but also a sense of recollection, of memory; scattered and nonsensical. It is an examination not only of time travel and memory on film“...but for the way in which the form can twist our most cherished versions of reality inside out.” (Sellers, 2005) This idea crystallizes in a moment where La Jetée breaks its visual rules with a longingly held shot of the woman that has held the traveller's obsession through his disjointed life. In this ‘shot’ stills begin to merge to form a rudimentary animation before giving way to a full shot of her eyes opening in gaze towards the camera. But even so “The film emphasizes the illusion of time lapse and movement perceived both by the characters within the film” (Filmslie, 2016) and it is with these editing tricks that La Jetée becomes more than the sum of its parts. Michel Gondry once stated of the film...“The human brain forgets the cuts” and this is important in further distinguishing the still technique as more than a stylistic flare, as though it is intrinsic to the themes of La Jetée; memory, mortality and our relationship to past events. Are we beholden to the past? Is our recollection unreliable? Do we perhaps cling to the fragments of happiness?

Fig 3.
In terms of sound design, La Jetée shines, an article discusses that “The sound is the only truly continuous element in La Jetee. As such, it is the main source of temporality and rhythm” (Filmslie, 2016) as it is with the narration and constant audio interaction that the audience is pulled through the short, making the photo-novel increasingly accessible until it is as though you are watching a moving picture, and indeed this interaction between the still picture and almost chaotic soundscape is moving in itself, adding poignancy that would be lost if done otherwise.

It is easy to draw comparison to much later films, but it is in La Jetée that the deconstruction of the contained themes is perhaps most pure. A powerful and utterly mesmerising 28 minutes.


Sellers, Simon. 'Retrospecto: La Jetée'. ballardian.com. [online] Available at: http://www.ballardian.com/la-jetee [Accessed 6 Jan. 2016]

Filmslie ‘Chris Marker’s La Jetee Analysis: Mortality and the Illusion of Time’ Filmslie.com [online] Available at: http://filmslie.com/chris-marker-la-jetee-analysis-temporality/ [Accessed 6 Jan. 2016]


Fig 1. La Jetée poster. [image] Available at: http://citygallery.org.nz/sites/default/files/lajetee%20at%20City%20Gallery.jpg [Accessed 6 Jan. 2016]

Fig 2. La Jetée still. [image] Available at: https://allfordeadtime.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/fetch.jpg [Accessed 6 Jan. 2016]

Fig 3. La Jetée still [Image] Available at: https://s3.amazonaws.com/criterion-production/product_images/1505-b2cd0ce10ae50ccaddf336cd797dbd2c/LJ_SS_Page_Still_original.jpg [Accessed 6 Jan. 2016]