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Thursday, 30 March 2017

Pipeline 01 - Facial Rigging 04

I'm progressing quite well with this bunch of tutorials. Despite the intricacy of what's involved I am finding them a nice challenge.


Pipeline 01 - Facial Rigging 02 & 03

Just a quick update on my Facial Rigging progress. I've nearly completed the first chunk of tutorials, detailed below. 



Very much looking forward to applying this mouth ribbon to my model.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Pipeline 01 - Facial Rigging 01

     

I finished the first part of the Facial Rig tutorials last night, and here's how it looks. The model itself is starting to feel like there's a character there, even more so than before. So it seems a treat to be the one causing this. I'll be settling down on these to focus on Adaptation B next.


Sculpting Class - Session 1

Yesterday marked our first sculpting class with Alan, and I must say I enjoyed it. I've never traditionally sculpted before, so this was a nice first dip into the waters. 

Below is just an update on how far I managed to get in the first session as well as the rough turnaround of the character I chose to adapt. 

I chose Hellboy because of the large sloping shapes he presented, as well as offering me an opportunity to model something that was close to being quite stylised. 


Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Pipeline 01 - Rigging 04 (Complete)


All finished, ready for me to move on to the Facial Rigging tutorials. Looking forward to getting stuck into those, judging by the amount of them it'll be quite a thing to sink my teeth into.

Pipeline 01 - Rigging 03



Storming through the Rigging portion of the tutorials, and I'm finding it really fun. Again, I'm not sure why I'm drawn to rigging, but I definitely enjoy it.

Pipeline 01 - Rigging 02



I think I'm going to call it quits for tonight, But I'm happy that I've made a good amount of progress.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Pipeline 01 - Rigging 01



I'm making progress with the Rigging section of tutorials. Just about to move onto the second video.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

World Cinema - "Ethel & Ernest" (2016) - A review

Fig 1.
"Ethel & Ernest" (2016) dir. Roger Mainwood, is a hand drawn animated feature film written by Raymond Briggs and based upon his book of the same name. The film itself focuses on Briggs' own parents over their lifetime and largely tells the story of how they met, their experiences of living in wartime Britain and beyond that. As such, it's an extremely personal tale without an inkling of agenda, bearing the fruit of a story which packs a sentimental wallop to back up it's charming watercolour draping.

Fig 2.
Briggs's previous work features the same altogether pleasing linework; Of those efforts, Tim Robey writing for the Telegraph enthuses that "The English writer and illustrator Raymond Briggs has bequeathed things, famously, to the art of animation – not just the 26 minutes of shivery joy that is Channel 4’s version of The Snowman, but the 1986 feature version of his nuclear parable Where the Wind Blows". (Robey, 2016) Utilising the Briggs' aesthetics the film resembles one of his children's books in motion, with a slight lean towards HergĂ© in terms of character design. It results in a decidedly 'old' feeling, and provides a sense of British peculiarity in places, which is of extreme importance in setting the piece. Robey goes on to say, of the films director, "Mainwood faithfully reproduces the colours and textures of Briggs’s book – the faded quality of the greens and browns, quaintly suggestive of a make-do-and-mend mentality that couldn’t afford brighter hues. It’s a whole history of mid-20th-century, lower-middle-class life in England, even while it remains squarely rooted to one spot: the family home the Briggses never left.(Robey, 2016) This muddying of the waters, this deliberacy in giving us a softer reality, becomes the crux of a kind of conversation between the viewer and the film. This is both a telling of something that did happen, and a perhaps, wistful, recounting of the past, enshrined in gloriously - almost kitsch - locales and warm, inviting colours. This is a film that wants to be seen, not because it has a message per se, only that it highlights the very real state of happiness in building a life, and sadness when that life wanes. These almost universal themes lend weight to the otherwise cutesy visuals, and as such, are the true success here.


Fig 3.
Beyond its usage as a way into Briggs's familial existence, "The film touches on some dark subject matter - neighbours whose sons have been killed in the war, the schizophrenia of Raymond’s girlfriend – but does so with a very British restraint. It is also quietly satirical about the British class system and changing social attitudes – but it never patronises its characters." (Macnab, 2016). These quieter issues insinuate themselves within the story and go a long way in making it seem that much more real. It's by and large because of these smaller moments that the film transcends what would normally be considered garish nostalgia piece, into a far more nuanced and moving story. This is surmised in Robey's review of the film where he says that "The ordinariness of this relationship, though, is just what makes it special, both on the page and floating by in Roger Mainwood’s adaptation." (Robey, 2016) and this is important in considering the briskness of the pace, as effectively the film succeeds or fails based on your willingness to buy into the format.

In essence, the film is a slow burn montage sequence, taking great lengths to pass the audience through the greatest amount of time, and thus, further along the course of the Briggs's lives. Peter Bradshaw of the Guardian notes that "The story moves briskly, even faintly incuriously through events, never staying all that long on each one." (Bradshaw, 2016) though this approach may turn some people off, perhaps those who might yearn for a more definite story. However, Bradshaw also notes that "It’s an engaging film, but it leaves you with a feeling that there might be a deeper, darker, more specific story yet to be told." (Bradshaw, 2016) Be that as it may, this approach lends itself well here and in fact amplifies the reality on display. The stories surrounding the main ones displayed herein are paramount in situating the film in our reality, making the story, and it's outcome, all that more impactful and personal. Perhaps it is also because the characters of Ethel and Ernest play on a far more knowing and altogether 'cozy' level, that evokes archetypes familiar to all of us. Certainly if not exposed directly in our day to day lives then somewhere on the peripheries, again heightening the universality the film has. This, coupled with the films ending; an ending that would put even the harshest cynic to the test, makes "Ethel & Ernest" an incredibly poignant tale indeed.


Bibliography

Bradshaw, Peter. (2016) "Ethel & Ernest review – moving adaptation of Raymond Briggs's graphic novel" theguardian.co.uk. At: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2016/oct/27/ethel-ernest-review-moving-adaptation-of-raymond-briggss-graphic-novel (Accessed 26/03/17)

Macnab, Geoffrey. (2016) "Ethel & Ernest review: Wonderfully evocative" Independent.co.uk. At: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/reviews/ethel-ernest-film-review-a7381006.html (Accessed 26/03/17)

Robey, Tim. (2016) "Ethel & Ernest review: Raymond Briggs honors his parents with slow-drip poignancy" Telegraph.co.uk. At: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/films/0/ethel--ernest-review-raymond-briggs-honors-his-parents-with-slow/ (Accessed 26/03/17)

Illustrations

Fig 1. Ethel & Ernest Poster. [image] At: http://www.filmfund.lu/var/www/storage/images/www/laptop/film-catalogue/films/ethel-ernest/55899-11-eng-GB/ethel-ernest_producer_logo.jpg (Accessed 26/03/17)

Fig 2. Ethel & Ernest relax. [image] At: http://www.filmfund.lu/var/www/storage/images/media/images/q016c005_compositing.0001/65548-1-eng-GB/q016c005_compositing.0001_film_lightbox_gallery.jpg (Accessed 26/03/17)

Fig 3. Family. [image] At: http://film.britishcouncil.org/images/EthelErnest.jpg (Accessed 26/03/17)




Friday, 24 March 2017

Interim Crit reflection 23/03/17

Image result for buzz lightyear

"To infinity, and beyond!" - Buzz Lightyear.

Thinking back to yesterday's crit, and moving past my natural instinct to wince, I feel that I got the comments I deserved, both good and bad. Initially, I had wanted this project to be a character design process, and since I have been advised to go back to that, I can't help but feel relief. Though, I feel as though I've let myself down purely in time wasted (for whatever reason). I do find myself coming out of yesterday with a certain degree of calm. 

I am, at least, glad that my 'idea' was liked and well thought of. But now I want to prove that I'm not just an ideas man.

Moving forward, I'll be designing Olga and completing the pipeline. If it's also a prudent idea in laying the groundwork for this being a Year 3 project to finish, I'll also look at completing the animatic and writing process for the short. Proving to myself that I can do those things.

Hopefully I can get a chat in with Alan next week to get a greater sense of what I now need to do.  

No time for moping, because I'm excited to design Olga, since it's not everyday you get the opportunity to design a superhero and it not be an entirely cheesy process. 



Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Adaptation B - Mood Board


In order to be further prepared for the interim pitch, I've generated a small mood board that I hope, encapsulates the general tone I want to capture in my project.

From left to right is, Watchmen, Princess Bride, Logan, Sunset Boulevard & Birdman. All of which share a context with my project.

I'll be writing a rough script tonight before bed, with a general sense of where I'm going.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

World Cinema - "Persepolis" (2007) - A review.

Fig 1.

"Persepolis" (2007) dir. Marjane Satrapi & Vincent Paronnaud, is a French/Iranian animated feature film based on the graphic novel of the same name, which in turn is based on Satrapi's own experiences of growing up against the backdrop of the Iranian Revolution. It was a nominee for Best Animated Feature at the Academy awards, as well as a slew of other awards, including the Palme D'or. Satrapi's other works include "Chicken with Plums" (2011) - which again, was based on another of Satrapi's graphic novels - & "The Voices" (2014) which stylistically is the furthest departure from her earlier work. Peter Bradshaw, comments that "here is an adaptation so inspired, so simple and so frictionless in its transformation of the source material that it's almost a miracle. When I tell people it's a lo-fi animation, largely in black-and-white, about Iran they put their heads in their hands and make a low groaning sound. But I've seen those same people bounce happily out of the cinema after seeing it as if they had had some sort of caffeine injection." (Bradshaw, 2008) and in truth, there's no point at which the film belies its origins on paper, though counter to that, there's never a moment where Persepolis feels flat. 

Fig 2.
Roger Ebert notes that "the style is deliberately two-dimensional, avoiding the illusion of depth in current animation. This approach may sound spartan, but it is surprisingly involving, wrapping us in this autobiography that distills an epoch into a young women's life." (Ebert, 2008) It's by and large, because of the film's insistence to stick with the aesthetic laid out by Satrapi's graphic novel, that allows such an expressive piece to exist at all. In terms of sheer complexity, it was clear that the piece needed to adopt a far more abstract and frugal approach to animation, Marc Jousset, art designer for Persepolis mentions that "We had to develop a specific style, both realistic and mature. No bluffing, no tricks, nothing overcooked. With animation director Christian Desmares, twenty animators worked on the movie." (Jousset, 2007) and it is within this economy that creative decisions led to some extremely captivating answers to problems arising from having to fill in the gaps between the panels of the graphic novel.

"Persepolis" opens with Marjane in an airport, beginning to reminisce about her past, leading us centers on a young Marjane a regales us with her story; a coming of age tale set amidst the precarious backdrop of the Iranian Revolution, the Shah is being usurped, and the country is about to enter, what everyone believes, will be a time for democracy to prosper. The opposite is true, and Iran is plunged into uncertainty, and a constrictive regime that oppresses rather than uplifts. Marjane, "is nine years old when the waves of revolution rise to engulf the country. Waves that send her parents to the demonstrations" (Bazr, 2007) and it is within this uncertainty that drive Marjane and her growth. Although clearly being in a position of privilege amongst the other characters in this tale, she nonetheless serves as the focal point for which to witness these events. "She is from an intellectual family with a comfortable existence. But Persepolis is able to portray a universal reality (the history of a country) through the narrative of a particular and uncommon life. The history that is part of Marjane’s family heritage and shapes her life is part of the collective heritage that shapes the existence, hopes and dreams of all of us" (Bazr, 2007) in this way, much as the same as with "Waltz with Bashir" (2008) a personal story is transformed into a universal one, and in Persepolis's case, one that highlights the plight of women in particular, as the film is wise enough to highlight the difference in attitudes between Iran and Vienna, culminating in "Marjane’s conflict with various representatives of the regime in the context of continuous repression" that causes "her parents to send her abroad" (Bazr, 2007). This goes a long way into quantifying what make Persepolis an Iranian film, certainly it's focus is Iran, it's subjects Iranian, and yet, the film has been banned by religious leaders in Iran. Perhaps then, Persepolis is uniquely Iranian in so much as being able to attack it's own establishment, whilst also allowing Marjane a crucible in which to pool the events of her life into, and make sense of them.

Fig 3.
Why then, does it appear that the film appeals to a Western palate? Could it be that this is perhaps a deliberate choice on Marjane's part in order to further criticise Iran? It seems likely. With reference to the graphic novel "One of the most important underlying themes of Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel Persepolis is the censorship of artistic expression in Iran under the fundamentalist Islamic regime that took over power of the country after the 1979 Revolution. Satrapi’s novel is itself a product of, and reaction to, this censorship" (Davis, Wang. 2010) So in a sense, the existence of Persepolis as a property at least, is an affront itself, and in the very best way. For it is from that self flagellating critique, a critique of someone who is at least qualified to levy such criticisms that makes this filmic endeavor what it is, a triumph for animation, right from a comic strip.

Bibliography

Bradshaw, Pete. (2008) At: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2008/apr/25/animation.drama (Accessed on 09/03/17)

Bazr. (2007) At: http://revcom.us/a/109/awtw-persepolis-en.html (Accessed on 09/03/17)

Davis, Lane. Wang, Bella ed. "Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood Repression and Expression in Iranian Art" (2010) At: http://www.gradesaver.com/persepolis-the-story-of-a-childhood/study-guide/repression-and-expression-in-iranian-art (Accessed on 09/03/17)

Ebert, R. (2008) At: http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/persepolis-2008 (Accessed on 09/03/17)
Illustrations

Fig 1. Persepolis Poster. [image] At: https://i.paigeeworld.com/user-media/1422576000000/5373607ff3192bf878276785_54cadd389993972a69242a46_320.jpg (Accessed 09/03/17)

Fig 2. Marjane-(s). [image] At http://www.jsbc.fr/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/persepolis-8-1064x596.jpg (Accessed 09/03/17)


Fig 3. "Punk is not Ded". [image] At: http://theredlist.com/media/database/films/cinema/2000/persepolis/010-persepolis-theredlist.jpg (Accessed 09/03/17)




Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Adaptation B - Preliminary thumbnails for Olga

At the moment I've done a few drawings purely for the purpose of ascertaining the basic shape breakdown of Olga, and throwing up any aesthetic quirks along the way. On the surface there isn't much to go from in the original outline for the character, as, honestly, she's quite generic, and wears next to nothing (thanks to the nature of the medium she's from). 

Keeping my spin on the character in mind, in that, she will be used in a subversive manner that both belays her original purpose (which was to entertain and titillate) into something much more positive. Therefore, I wanted to explore different shapes that one would normally expect from a superheroine, given that we're used to large breasted, svelte and admittedly - at times - muscular forms (Wonder Woman being the obvious comparison to draw here) I wanted to explore things much closer to 'normal', even mundane. Whilst not 100% there, I am moving closer to that within these exploratory thumbnails. 

TLDR - I'm thinking more 'Unbeatable Squirrel Girl' and less 'Power Girl' (though this could be subject to change).  







Monday, 6 March 2017

Adaptation B - Typography influences

Apart from noticing how totally misogynistic these covers are, I thought they would also provide invaluable information in terms of project branding, in particular with typography. So I've assembled a library together and taken note of the particular fonts I like most, and how they're all combined. 

I've also experimented a little with the logo for this project, and I'm leaning to want to at a little more colour here and there, so I'll be experimenting with that soon as I feel that there is more to get from these covers. I've been toying with the idea to utilise them in a much more meaningful way during the course of this project. 

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Adaptation B - "Mommie Dearest" (1981) & "Sunset Boulevard" (1950) reaction.

With regards to my project, I was offered a few film suggestions that reflected the tone I wanted to evoke, that tragic, aged starlet, relevant at one point in time, and still relevant in their own heads, both of these films deal with a schism created by feeling irrelevant and the mythic tragedy this brings with it. 

Image result for sunset boulevard
Norma Desmond
So the challenge is transposing this, and adapting it into Olga. So after further reading into her character - of which very little exists, I've discovered - I found out that the character had effectively been shafted after a somewhat epic sounding story arc. In that arc, she fought in an interplanetary war, and married in order to stop it. Becoming the queen of Venus. Her past also bore interesting tidbits, something that I will focus on in a later post, but sufficed to say, she experienced a lot of abuse during her childhood, which I feel like will affect her outlook as an older person. 

So, in a discussion with Phil, he noted that the interesting part there was that she was shelved. Obsolete in some way, and that's what I should be focusing on. He recommended that I watch Sunset Boulevard, so I did. 

After viewing "Sunset Boulevard" I happened on the idea that my character - Olga Mesmer - the first female superhero in comics, would follow a similar path to Norma Desmond in terms of the 'aftermath' of her career. Would Olga experience the same maddening irrelevance as Norma? Indeed, it seemed as though she would. Living in a decrepit old mansion surrounded by heirlooms of her past, herself effectively living in the past, Norma lives in the waning light of her stardom. The ultimate gut punch being when we learn that her butler - a creepy almost omnipresent manservant - is actually one of her ex husbands. Himself, trapped in the faded stars enacting of the past. The whole film basks in this potent twilight, and you find yourself silently hoping that things could just go in Norma's favour. The ending almost paradoxically grants Norma her fame back, whilst also damning her to a life in prison for murdering Joe Gillis; the dual nature of this ending furthering the complexity of Norma's condition, for all at once she displays an awareness of her own irrelevance, whilst also displaying an uncanny ability to lie to herself about the nature of her reality. 

From this I took that I should focus on the twilight years, with an older Olga. Though I encountered a problem. After further research into Olga Mesmer, I had discovered that she had been granted 'unaging immortality' at the end of her original story. But again, after further talking with both Phil & Alan, it became clear to me that age can be more than just a physical attribute, age affects the mind. So again, I asked myself what would Olga be like in that circumstance? 

Image result for mommie dearest
Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford
Phil had a few more film suggestions after that, One of which was "Mommie Dearest" - rudimentary docu-drama focusing on Joan Crawford, again, in her twilight years. Whilst the subject matter focused mainly on her fracture psyche caused by fame, and the subsequent abuse of her adopted daughter. So the threads of what I could use for Olga were less apparent here, but were certainly to be found, and find them I did. Again, this film demonstrated to me the self importance caused by fame, the sadness that hung around its subjects who were in it's light and falling out of it. All of these things helped me form a more cogent idea of what Olga would be like, say, 40-50 years down the line, regardless of physical condition. 


So, attitudinally, I have something to work on. There are a few things that Alan suggested in our last meeting regarding to format, and an extremely interesting suggestion that I look at the opening of Watchmen for inspiration. Especially as I had mentioned to him that I saw Olga as someone that could be a feminist icon in some kind of alt-world situation. I will follow that trail of thought up in another post though...

Friday, 3 March 2017

Pipeline 01 - Skinning 05 - Blendshape interpolators and completion


Just finished up the last of the Skinning tutorials, ready to move on to the Rigging ones. It's really nice seeing this model as it's created, knowing that it started off as nothing and is now attaining some form of complexity.

Below are a couple of videos that contain a few playblasts that demonstrate the skinning at play here.