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Sunday, 26 February 2017

Pipeline 01 - Skinning 04 - Progress


Just posting a further update to yesterdays Skinning post. I'm about halfway through the fourth video tutorial. Hoping to have that done in the next few hours.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Pipeline 01 - Skinning - Progress

Making quick progress with the skinning tutorials for Pipeline 1, just about to start the 4th tutorial in the series. 








Sunday, 19 February 2017

World Cinema - "Waltz with Bashir" (2008) - A review.

Fig 1.




Waltz With Bashir” (2008) written and directed by Ari Folman is an Israeli animated war film, centering on Folman’s search for his lost memories with regards to the 1982 Lebanon war. The importance here, being that, this is very much still a raw subject, and indeed, is so raw, that this film remains banned in Lebanon still. Centering on Ari’s investigation into his past in a pseudo-documentary that’s less anchored in the real world - despite its subject matter - and more akin to the soporific haze of “Apocalypse Now” (1979), part parable, part prosecution, and yet somehow, it manages to portray its subjects in a sympathetic light.


Folman himself hasn’t been majorly prolific in terms of filmmaking, which perhaps makes the success of Waltz that much more a of a victory, but his other feature film “The Congress” (2013) continues the same aesthetic established in his previous work, whilst pushing it into new bounds with the mixing of live action and 2D/3D animation elements. While not as overtly personal and politically charged as Waltz it seems to bear Folman’s touch, nonetheless.

Fig 2.
Describing the aesthetics - which utilise “hyperreal rotoscope-animation techniques, similar to those made famous by Bob Sabiston and Richard Linklater. Live-action footage on videotape has been digitally converted into a bizarre dreamscape in which reality is resolved into something between two and three dimensions.” (Bradshaw, 2008) - This is where the strengths of animation really shine, for another layer has been added here, one that reinforces the detachment so obviously felt by Folman; allowing not only the viewer to more or less comfortably witness events as Folman uncovers them, safe in the knowledge that nothing shown, will shake them. Which makes the films finale that much more poetic and succinct. As the inclusion of live action footage, as Folman has finally pieced his memories of the massacres together. “The decision to suddenly switch from animation to video footage at the movie’s conclusion was, says Folman, “always the plan.” “I just wanted to prevent a situation where someone somewhere would walk out of the theater and think it was a cool anti-war movie with great drawings and music,” he says. “I wanted to put it very clearly that this massacre happened – more than 3,000 people were slaughtered and most of them were kids, women, old people. That video footage puts my story in place, the design and animation style in place, the story in place, and the audience in place.” “(Kaufman, 2008) This is a moment that wouldn’t have worked had the movie been in live action. In fact, this is a rare moment in cinema, where the audience is invited into a dreamworld, only to wake up to the reality of war and conflict in a most harrowing way.

Fig 3.


Fig 4.
In choosing to envelope this story as an animation, Folman has reinforced the confusion felt within war, and conveyed his own disillusionment towards it. “From the beginning, Folman saw Waltz with Bashir as an animated feature, drawing inspiration from graphic novels--many coming out of post-war Bosnia. "If you look at this film," he says, "with [its] lost memory, dreams, war--which is pretty surreal--there is no other way to tell this story." (Adams, 2009). This level of distance, this, separation, is of course, tantamount in setting up the finale’s rather solid gut punch.


With regards to subject matter, to say that this film inhabits troubling territory seems to merely be addressing the proverbial tip of the iceberg, especially when the aforementioned sympathetic tone is brought into the fore. Naira Antoun mentions the lack of humanity ascribed to the portrayal of the Palestinians within the film, “To say that Palestinians are absent in Waltz with Bashir, to say that it is a film that deals not with Palestinians but with Israelis who served in Lebanon” (Antoun, 2009) And while this is true, this is entirely systemic of a story that needed to be told, for ultimately - and perhaps wistfully - it places the blame on those much higher up for their actions in 1982, whilst remaining untainted of that sometimes maudlin anti-war message of American tradition, that would see the guilt shoved down our throats. It is perhaps interesting, that in utilising this conflict to at once absolve the little man in this conflict, Folman has perhaps been a little ignorant of those that are persecuted in this film. In framing it so that “we don’t see Palestinian facial expressions; only a lingering on dead, anonymous faces.” it makes it seem as though “Palestinians are never fully human, Israelis are, and indeed are humanized through the course of the film.“ (Antoun, 2009) Though this doesn’t detract from the films message, nor it’s poignant ending, it is indeed an ending who’s milage may vary depending on who is viewing it. Instead, whilst making a very marked point at the films climax, the film still remains ambiguous in its finger pointing, allowing instead, for the personal stories of the Israelis involved in the film, to take the limelight.  


Importantly though, it is in this more personal approach to such a large conflict, and also in the narrative confusion that pairs with Folman’s real confusion towards his own experiences that allow the audience to perhaps inhabit that moment in time,


Bibliography

Adams, Beige. (2009) At: http://www.documentary.org/magazine/waltz-bashir-fallibility-yet-persistence-memory (Accessed 19/02/17)

Antoun, Naira. (2009) At: https://electronicintifada.net/content/film-review-waltz-bashir/3547 (Accessed 19/02/17)

Bradshaw, Peter. (2008) At: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2008/nov/21/waltz-with-bashir-folman (Accessed 17/02/17)

Kaufman, Debra. (2008) At: http://www.studiodaily.com/2008/12/how-they-did-it-waltz-with-bashir/ (Accessed 19/02/17)


Illustrations

Fig 1. Waltz with Bashir Poster. [image] At: http://www.impawards.com/intl/misc/2008/posters/waltz_with_bashir_ver2.jpg (Accessed 19/02/17)

Fig 2. Soldier. [image] At: http://filmint.nu/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/waltz_with_bashir-blue-794824.jpg (Accessed 19/02/17)

Fig 3. The Beach. [image] At: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/--_yjqLqL3CQ/Utrooi6kcqI/AAAAAAAAFJc/yFDeuAAsLiw/s1600/Waltz+with+Bashir+(4).jpg (Accessed 19/02/17)

Fig 4. The Massacre. [image] At: http://www.filmeducation.org/images/events/screenings/WaltzWithBashir.jpg_cmyk.jpg (Accessed 19/02/17)

Interesting Links

How they did it: "Waltz With Bashir"

Friday, 17 February 2017

World Cinema - "Sita Sings The Blues" (2008) - A review.

Fig 1.

Sita Sings The Blues” (2008) written, directed, produced and animated by Nina Paley, features multiple styles and uses of animation to tell parallel tales about the Ramayana (an epic poem which details the divine prince Rama’s rescue of his wife Sita from the demon king Ravana), including segways into comical discussions between shadow puppets, musical interludes that feature songs by Annette Hanshaw and hand drawn scenes from Paley’s own life. It’s a heady mix that - when it works - is an engaging and colourful display of the power that animation can have in allowing people to tell very personal stories without many limitations.

Fig 2.

The interesting thing to firstly consider here is that this is markedly ‘Indian’ in flavor, yet Paley herself is American and has appropriated the story of the Ramayana into an understanding of her own experiences during her stay in India. “The ingenuity of “Sita” — which evokes painting, collage, underground comic books, Mumbai musicals and “Yellow Submarine” (for starters) — is dazzling” (Scott, 2009) The not-quite-documentary that ensues is a collage of different aspects of the Ramayana. Structured like a Bollywood film, even down to the interval (present in Bollywood films largely due to how they “follow a different structure. In the first half, the characters and the plot is introduced. It is here when we are introduced with the conflict as well.” (Sharma, 2016) ). It is with this blending of myth and reality from different cultures that certainly already places the film within a problematic context, yet it’s impossible to be wholeheartedly offended by this aspect of the film, as it’s goal is pure in intent. For Sita in particular, “There are songs, bright colors and a story taken in part from one of the biggest, oldest epics in the world. But it is also modest, personal and, in spite of Ms. Paley’s use of digital vector graphic techniques, decidedly handmade.” (Scott, 2009) In the most basic sense, this animation represents a catharsis of Paley’s personal strife, viewed through an incredibly old yet relevant love story and In that way, the film succeeds.


Paley’s other work includes a selection of shorts, “Fetch” (2002), “Thank You For Not Breeding” (2002), “Dandaka Dharma” (2005)  & a short segment in “The Prophet” (2014), the common threads between the works seem to be spiritualistic, humanist and pragmatic, while Paley also showcases an eye for the psychedelic in “Sita Sings…” ; Aesthetically they share the same traits, insofar that there is an almost Gilliam-esque sensibility to proceedings, especially in Paley’s later work, in both aesthetics and a pitch dark affinity for satire.

Fig 3.


“Sita Sings the Blues” features an array of different art styles, each parallel segment having its own style, each doing it’s best to push each scene into far more interesting avenues - the shadow puppets struggling to retell the story of Rama and Sita being a highlight of the piece -  The fact that this is indeed a collage of cultural aesthetic is precisely why this film is so original; the story coiling “around and around, as Indian epic tales are known to do. Even the Indians can't always figure them out. In addition to her characters talking, Paley adds a hilarious level of narration: Three voice-over modern Indians, Desis, ad-libbing as they try to get the story straight” (Ebert, 2009). Though “Sita Sings…” has not been without its problems and detractors, copyright issues with the use of Annette Hanshaw’s music in certain scenes (that could have been cut outright, as they seem quite clunky in comparison to other scenes) aside.


Roger Ebert suggests of Nina that “There are uncanny parallels between her life and Sita's. Both were betrayed by the men they loved. Both were separated by long journeys.” (2009)  but par superficial readings of the original text, it seems as though Nina has adapted the parts that work with her own personal journey. And as functional a choice this is, it has divided the Hindu community, one blog going so far as to say that “this unjust film attempts to violently fit the great Hindu epic with its immense complexities into a mundanely depressing post-split atmosphere which thousands of Americans experience daily”. (Basu, 2009)


Whether each side can be wholly agreed upon is another question entirely, but the fact that this debate exists around the problematic nature of using cultural stories is a testament to how important stories are in our day to day lives. Regardless of the fact that this is a product of interpretation, and ultimately of Paley’s own journey after her own divorce, this showcases that artefacts of the past, however culturally important, can be made relevant and personal in the right context.

Bibliography


Ebert, Roger (2009) At: http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/sita-sings-the-blues-2009 (Accessed 17/02/17)

Basu, Saurav, (2009) At: http://www.vijayvaani.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?aid=781 (Accessed 17/02/17)

Scott, A. O. (2009) At http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/25/movies/25sita.html (Accessed 17/02/17)


Sharma, Sampada (2016) At: https://www.scoopwhoop.com/Why-do-Indian-movies-have-intervals-theory/#.s3oai8ph3 (Accessed 17/02/17)

Illustrations

Fig 1. Sita Sings The Blues Poster [image]. At: https://i.ytimg.com/vi/PLI1WVPkpgY/maxresdefault.jpg (Accessed 17/02/17)

Fig 2. Sita crying [image]. At: https://i.ytimg.com/vi/PLI1WVPkpgY/maxresdefault.jpg (Accessed 17/02/17)

Fig 3. Shadow Puppets [image]. At: http://sitasingstheblues.com/SitaEPressKit/BhavanaSitaContaminated.jpg (Accessed 17/02/17)

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Maya Class - Walk cycle progress


Back to working on this animation, and I feel like I've improved it since last post, there's more work to be done on the back still and the breakdown animations are yet to be implemented, but I feel like I'm honing in closer to what this should be.

Adaptation B - Olga Mesmer Influence Map

Leading on from this morning's tutorial and a talk yesterday, I've chosen to focus my project on one of the three choices I had lined up for myself in previous Adaptation B posts. As such, I've chosen "Olga Mesmer" - a kind of Superman progenitor.

Here's a preliminary influence map, detailing her original appearance alongside some more contemporary visions of the 'faded starlet'. I'm going to be watching 'Sunset Boulevard' tonight, and I'll post my initial reaction soon after.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Adaptation A - Submission





I'm going to continue working on the remaining scene over the weekend just to please myself, and fine tune the animation further as there are certain elements that I'm not satisfied with, in particular, that missing scene, and also the timing of everything, but, there are also pluses that I will take away from this project. I'm happy that I got to try out some new plugins in Photoshop and After Effects, particularly in Photoshop as I feel like It's drastically improved the way in which I can now work.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Adaptation A - Opening Crawl


I feel like this was the obvious choice for an opening, but I went with it anyway. Didn't take too long to render thankfully, and it marks the first time I've used particle effects in any meaningful way. They're particularly useful here.

Adaptation A - Ships, Sabers and Office Workers

Just finishing up the last bits of art whilst the Star Wars opening crawl renders in after effects. I am enjoying this process, despite it feeling like a mad rush. Though, I have never used the lasso tool quite this much before. 



Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Adaptation A - Qui-Gon-Jinn


As it stands, I've just got the big man himself, George Lucas, to finish. And then I'll be moving on to the backgrounds (which will - again - be quite simple). 

Adaptation A - "Foamy-Wans"


Rounding off the third from last "character" needed for this project, I've mocked up a simplified "Foamy-Wan" and put them side by side with their larger counterpart.


Adaptation A - Separated Clone Trooper, with Rifle


Here's an updated version of the clone trooper showing the separation needed in order to animate certain parts of the character. I've also included a simple mockup of a rifle as the infographic calls for it at one point.

Adaptation A - Clone Trooper

Here's the Clone Trooper, His arms are on separate layers in order to movie them in after effects. Next is his rifle, and then the environments. A lot of work, but I'm determined to get it done!

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Adaptation A - Final Designs for Obi-Wan

With these designs I took a look at the direction the art for the project was going in, with regards to the ship posted previously, and realized that there could be a clashing of art styles if I continued in the direction I was going in. As such, these reflect an updated vision, maintaining a simplified look, losing the lines and looking far more graphical, which is what I hoped for.

Adaptation A - Jedi Interceptor back view

Here's the rear view of the interceptor, just toying with gradients in the second image to see if that adds a little more depth to things. Overall though I think I'm happy with the second image the most. Next, I'll be moving on to the LAAT troop transport and then the characters and backgrounds. 

Adaptation A - Jedi Interceptor

In-keeping with the simple aesthetic that I seek to use. I've limited the colours used on the Jedi Interceptor, whilst remaining impactful. As this will just be seen in a flyover shot from top down, I just need to create the back view.

My intention is to have a trail of light following the craft as it flies past, reminiscent of the opening scene of Akira, just to make it a bit more interesting to look at.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Adaptation A - Developing an art style


This weekend has all been about determining what sort of aesthetic I want to use in my infographic. As such I've tested out a few different simple styles based off of the influence map, in accordance with what assets I actually need.

As it stands I need Obi-Wan, A clone trooper, George Lucas and most of Qui-Gon-Jinn as they feature prominently in the infographic.

I decided to go with a sort of simplified 'chibi' style in the end as I knew that I wanted everything to be kind of cutesy, whilst also being graphical and simple.

Below is a mockup in illustrator (which I've elected to use this project, having never used it an awful lot before)

Now it's all together, I'm starting to feel a little better about my chances. The voiceover is ready and awaiting the art. I'm currently watching a slew of lynda tutorials on after effects and illustrator, so already this project has benefited me. Time to get the rest done! 

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Adaptation A - Logo Development

Following on from the previous post, I decided I wanted to implement to 'two suns' motif into the logo design, if only to give me the opportunity to make the design a little more interesting, a little less like floating text.

Here's a selection anyway. I've chosen the color of the suns based on their colors in the film. I'm quite fond of #6 because it reminds me of old spaghetti western posters.

Adaptation A - Logo Ideation


Obviously, there's a lot about this subject that's already defined aesthetically, so, I've decided to utilize this to my advantage by pulling from various sources attributed to the art design of Star Wars itself. For-instance, In a few examples here I've used "Trajan" which is the font that was used to denote the 'episode' in each film.

I've also gone back to the original 1977 poster and reclaimed one of the first logo's associated with Star Wars as I enjoy it far more than the current typeface used for the series. Having said that, I've also explored that option also.

I'm quite happy with #3, #9 & #10. And I think eventually, I'll go for #10.

Adaptation A - Roughed out storyboard


Although not required, I felt like I needed to get a handle on what exactly I wanted to happen in the infographic, and plotting it out like this helped a lot. Informing me of what assets I needed to create as well as giving me a place to explore the visual architecture of the piece.


Saturday, 4 February 2017

Adaptation A - Updated influence map

Looking at the previous post regarding the aesthetic I wanted to utilize for the infographic, I realized that while Noma Bar's style looks great as still images, that style wouldn't have lent itself to form an interesting infographic.

I've since found other more complementary forms of visual reference that I believe will complement the material nicely. As such, I'll be working on the art assets I need to complete the infographic, this weekend.
.
Included in this influence map are images from Noma Bar, Kurzgesagt & Marc Murera.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Adaptation A - Finished Script

I'll be sending this off to the voiceover artist that I'm working with, tonight. Just posting this here for posterity, I'm glad this is at a stage where I can send if off now :) 

You’ve seen the message boards raging about Jar Jar Binks. You’ve heard the poor dialogue by George Lucas? You’ve seen the endless marketing. The Star Wars prequels, or Pee-Tee’s for short, have been with us now for a decade and have both divided fans and critics alike with each new instalment.

These are 10 facts about The Prequel Trilogy that each fans and critic should know before they turn to the dark side…

Did you know that episodes 1,2 & 3 actually broke records? Packing a staggering amount of VFX shots in each installment of the trilogy, culminating in 2151 shots. 1,269 of which were fully animated.

That’s a lot of dead Gungans.

Some of those shots may have included a clone trooper or two, but did you know that none of them were actors?  

Every clone trooper in Revenge of the Sith is a creation of CGI. No clone costumes or helmets were manufactured for filming...

If you thought that was enough, consider that the only shot in Phantom Menace to not feature any CGI, is a vent expelling toxic, Dioxis gas.

Of course, it couldn’t be a top 10 list without mentioning Jar-Jar Binks.

Now, Before you draw your lightsabers and blaster pistols, it’s because he was the first ever fully digital main character in cinema history...despite being perhaps the most...hated film character in cinema history.

Some fans even feel like the Prequel Trilogy contains too much CGI in general. In actuality more practical miniature models were created for any one of the Star Wars prequel films than were made for the entire combined original trilogy. That’s an impressive amount of...Senate chambers and .

Talking about chambers...Sets were planned to be built only as high as the tops of the actors' heads and computer graphics filled in the rest. But Liam Neeson was so tall that he cost the set crew an extra $150,000 in construction.

But that’s not the only peculiarity brought on by the actors. Ewan McGregor made lightsaber noises whilst duelling.

George Lucas corrected this in post production.

In Revenge of the Sith, in some of the final shots during the birth scene, the infant Luke and Leia are portrayed by animatronic puppets. As these puppets were operated by Ewan McGregor, the cast referred to them as “Foamy-Wan Kenobi”.

The unreleased and uncut version of Revenge of the Sith had a running time of 4 hours, this would have dramatically increased the amount of snacks needed for an all day marathon of the series. Now creeping up to 18 hours.

Speaking of misplaced time.

In the excitement leading up to the release of The Phantom Menace, It's estimated that 2.2 million full-time employees skipped work to attend screenings, resulting in $293 million in lost productivity. So many workers announced plans to skip work to watch the movie that many companies shut down on the opening day.

So there you have it, the Top 10 Facts about The Prequel trilogy. Obscure enough to impress, without giving away your secret love of all things Star Wars.