Wednesday, 29 April 2015

The Road So Far...

Sunday 19th April

Worked 10am – 4pm, drove around picking up friends and all their band gear for a gig.
After the gig load up car with all my puppets, sets and props ready to take to uni tomorrow for filming.

Monday 20th April.

Drove to uni, made 3 trips from the car to the filming room. Booked out a camera, and lights. Then went on a mission looking for two spigots to attach the lights to their stands, extension cords to link the lights to the dimmer box, and a tripod. Several hours later, everything finally set up ready to film... or so I thought. Then the software, Stop-motion pro, decides not to work with the camera. Tried different settings, re-booting the computer, camera, everything. Then went and changed the camera at the library to see if that was the problem. Nothing worked. Went to find Stan, who fixed a similar problem I had back in November, he was off ill. Finally got a different technician to come help me. He spent about an hour, uninstalling and re-installing all software, and unfortunately couldn't come up with a solution. Then I went to pester Gina, who said she would email Stan and try her best to solve the problem for me.
Pretty much had to go home, as there is nothing more I could have done today. I however, get on with so business work went I got home.

Tuesday 21st April

I was hoping the uni would be able to fix the problem I was having with the software/cameras while I wasn't there. I was in work all day from 10am – 8pm. I went in to uni quickly after work to see if anyone was able to fix the problem, but they hadn't.

Wednesday 22nd April

Tried rebooting the computer again, and changed the camera at the library for a second time.
Then I borrowed an older camera from a second year student to see if that would work. That worked perfectly, no problems what so ever.
So the old cameras work with the new updated software, and from what I've heard the new cameras work with the old software. However, all the computers now have the updated version of the software, and only new cameras are available to book out.
So spoke to Gina who said she's try an get hold of an older camera from a different campus for me for tomorrow. As a back up she suggested I ask Roger if he has any older cameras I could book out.
Turned out Roger did have one camera available, but would only book it out to me as a last resort as his students, photography and VFX students, get priority. So now I would have to wait until tomorrow to get anything sorted.

Thursday 23rd April

Gina has had no luck with getting a camera from anywhere else, but is still in contact with Stan over trying to get the new cameras to work with the new software. So I had to get the camera from Roger who has booked it out for me until Wendnesday 29th April, and said if no one else needs it then he will extend the booking.
Finally able to get filming started.
I did a few title test shot ands some test shots of the posh man and woman outside the shop. I then made a list of things I'd forgot at home and needed to print off.
Then I did business work for the rest of the day as the deadline is tomorrow.

This is a still shot from a short animated clip I did of the couple (the animation got deleted a few days later =,[ ) 

Friday 24th April

Went into uni and handed in my business work. Then headed over to the filming room to get some work done.
Remembering the rig today I was able to do a shot of scene 1 shots 2 and 3, where the posh couple look and the shop, then each other and agree to go inside. I did these shots twice.
Then I grabbed some food before headed to work from 4pm- 8pm. I decided not to go back to uni afterwards because I need to print some signs off for outside the shop because I didn't like the ones I'd hand write.

Saturday 25th April

I went into uni to re-do the shop signs and then film the opening title shot again and the sign that the couple read and then chose to go inside shop.
Then I had to head of to work again from 3pm – 8pm.

Sunday 26th April

Today I was in work all day from 8am – 5pm, and I was going to come to uni after work, but I changed my mind because I had to be back in work for 7am and was planning to go straight to uni after till as late as possible, but I also had to ring my parents who I hadn't spoken to in about 7 weeks.

Monday 27th April

I was in work today from 7am – 12 noon. Then I went straight into uni to get on with my work. However, Stop-motion pro decided not to work today and to make my day even better the computer decided to wipe everything I had done on Thursday, Friday and Saturday!
After a bit of a melt down, I hunted down a technician who managed to fix stop-motion prop but unfortunately was unable to re-cover my work. The only reason I didn't back to up to my external hard-drive was that the computer wouldn't recognise it, so I new I had to get my work backed up soon just in case, but sadly the computer decided to erase every of mine before I had a chance to fix that problem. It was just my work it got rid of though, because the student who was using that computer and software before me, his work was still on there.
I am noteing all of this down, not to complain but to explain all of the obstacles I am coming across, to prove that I am trying to do my work. The last thing I would want is for any of the tutors to think I was just being lazy and not doing anything.
I had a bit of a panic that I'd end up graduating with a really low mark so I went to find one of my tutors to discuss this. She explain the making scheme to me and reasured me I had nothing to worry about but not to give up, and just do the best that I can.

I went back to my little filming room and shot 2 test shots of my policeman's walk cycle. I did 2 shots of the policeman doing a turnaround, because I feel that my film is likely to turn into a showreel/trailer for a film. So I was thinking I could show turnarounds of each character with descriptions of their personality next to them with background music that reflects their personality.
With short animated clips from the film. A bit like what Joshua and Nathan Flynn showed of their final 3rd year film, even though they didn't get to actually finish the whole film itself.

I also shot my posh male character turnaround and shots of him with different replaceable mouths.

To solve the problem of the external hard-drive not working, I borrowed a different one from Gina, unfortunately the computer won't recognised hers either. The only way I could think around this rather than have to go find someone else to help me, I have decided to email of my own work to myself. So now everytime I do a shot I export it as a video and as individual frames and attach them to an email from my university account and send them to my hotmail account.

Tuesday 28th April

Today I shot: - the posh woman turnaround

- the woman shop keeper turnaround
- the woman shop keeper with different mouths
- all 5 character turnaround

Now that I have the character turnarounds done, I figured I better start filming all my shots. I'm going to try and get as much done as possible, and then IF I have time after, I may go back and re-do some shots and improve them. Though I am finding already that my puppets my look better than my puppets from last year, but they still aren't easy to animate.
These shot I did today as well :

- Title shot 1:1
- 1:2 the couple outside the shop
shop description sign
- 1:3 the couple walking upto the shop front door
- 3:1 the posh man and policeman outside the shop 

Wednesday 29th April

In uni by 9am, brought flooring for scene 2, inside the shop. Also brought in my own tripod, because I the I'm using is a bit wobbly at the top, and I like to animate camera moves but obviously if your moving the camera you need a stable tripod.
I saw Roger before 11am to see if I could extend my booking on the camera, which I was able to yay! Finally things are going right.
I am currently downloading all the files I've sent to myself and am going to put them in my animatic and send it to the lovely guy who has agreed to do the sound for me, and tell him whats been going and what my new plan is.

I am also setting up my second scene, which is the interior of the shop and am going to get some test shots of that done today.  

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Company research: Yamination studios

Yamination studios is situated in Birmingham, which is about an hour and a half from my home town of Milton Keynes. The company was founded in 2009 by Drew Roper, a multi-award winning stop-motion animator. The studio was created to spread the joy, charm and originality of animation.
You'll have seen some of the work done by Yamination studios if you saw the 'Barry the Biscuit Boy' advert for Cravendale, Yaminations helped Blink Ink in London to product that.
It's inspiring to see a local animation company being sucessful. Also seeing their puppets and how they've been made as part of their portfolio is inspiring myself to potentially apply to work for them in the future. I love their style and feel like they could be a good fit, if of course they are looking for model makers.   

Currently in production is "at-issue" 

"An unemployed puppet has the chance to audition for his dream job, following in his father’s footsteps, but a bizarre affliction strikes him, and unless he can learn to be himself his dream will not come true."

Company research: Laika

LAIKA is an animation studio that produces feature length films as well as shorts from scratch. Their latest feature film, The Boxtrolls, opened in September 2014.
Prior to The Boxtrolls, ParanNorman (2012) was nominated for both an Oscar and a BAFTA.

The company's first stop-motion animated feature film, Coraline, was release in February 2009, and received critical acclaim. With the release of Coraline, the stop-motion feature directed by Henri Selick based on a story by Neil Gaiman, that the company established its reputation.

Paranorman (2012) The film I went to the cinema to see days before starting my degree in BA (Hons) Animation.
They are a community of artists and technicians who create original animated content. They handcraft and transform everyday materials into living creatures with life and soul.
Laika newest film in the making is called “Kubo and the two strings” set for release in August 2016, distributed by Focus Features, and directed by Travis Knight.  
Sean Gregory, a student who graduated last year from the same University that I am currently at, has been hired by Laika to Animate on "Kubo and the two Strings." He moved over to the States a couple months ago to begin his incredible adventure. 
Check out Sean's Blog/Website below, he is one hell of a talented guy. 
This is the tortoise that Sean made for his final student film. 
Bridget Phlan who is currently one of the art directors on Chuck Steel: Night of the Trampires, had been working with Laika on Boxtrolls, (and has worked on other films with Laika) before her current role at Immortal Pictures. 

I think my favourite Laika production is still Coraline (2009) though. The puppets are incredible (they are in all their productions) but I think its the specialness of the storyline that makes the movie for me. The "Other" mother with her strange buttons for eyes, and Coraline's unique adventure. 

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Company research: Aardman Animations

I have looked into the Bristol based animation studio quite thoroughly as I did my dissertation on marketing stop-motion animation as an art form. Looking specifically at two animation studios as case studies. The well established Aardman animations and the fairly new company Laika. 

In 1972 Peter Lord and David Sproxton registered the name Aardman Animations, and began their 
partnership. After graduating they moved to Bristol and created Morph for the children's programme 'Take Hart'.

From the start Peter and David were interested in developing an adult audience for model animation. Conversation Pieces commissioned by Channel Four Television in 1982 enabled the pair to develop its innovative technique of animating puppet characters to real-life conversations. With films like Early Bird (set in a local radio station) Aardman demonstrated that real people could be characterised with insight, humour and sensitivity.

Aardman's audience is one that includes everyone of any and all ages. 

The name Aardman comes from the name of a super-hero character imagined and designed by Peter Lord when he was 15. The “aard” prefix itself derives from an African anteater, the aardvark. This traditionally animated film about an “Aardman” was eventually sold to TV, and from that point Peter Lord perfected it.

Peter and David met Nick Park at the National film and television school, where he was working on his student film, A Grand Day Out. He joined Aardman full time in 1985.

1993 saw the completion of the Oscar winning 30 minute film The wrong Trousers, which has become one of the most successful animated films ever made. 

In 1995 they produced Nick Park's third Oscar winning film A Close Shave, which was an 
immediate success establishing Aardman's reputation and making Wallace and Gromit household 

The year 2000 brought Aardman's first full-length feature film Chicken Run, funded by Dreamworks. It was released in the UK and the US at the same time and received excellent reviews and outstanding box office receipts.

In 2006 the studio release their first CG film Flushed Away, by Dreamworks. Although the film was 
not stop-motion animated, the CG characters had the same style and texture as Aardmans characters, so people still knew it was an Aardman production. 

In 2008 Wallace and Gromit's A Matter of Loaf and Death was broadcast on BBC One and captured a record audience of 16.15 million people. It was nominated for an Oscar in the Best short Animated Film category and went on to win a BAFTA. This means that every Wallace and Gromit film has won a BAFTA and they have all been nominated for an Oscar.

In 2009 Aardman partnered with Tate Museums and Legacy Trust UK on a major filmmaking project, a challenge to get children across the UK to come together and contribute ideas for an animated movie via a successful online community. This was the first Tate Movie of its kind, and on the films release it set a new Guinness World Record for the ‘Largest Number of Contributors to a Film Production’. The project won a number awards including BAFTA for Best Interactive. Aardman now holds three unbeaten world records. They have expanded their company in numerous way, showing the world who they are and what they can do, and what better way to get your audience involved and making them feel like they matter than asking for their ideas for a movie.

While I was doing my research about Aardman Animations I get the feeling that they are a very enbracing company and the more I learnt about them the more I want to work for them.

I am going to Annecy festival in June with some of my classmates, and we are currently trying to find a way of visiting the first ever Art of Aardman exhibition in Paris.

"Over 400 concept drawings, character and background studies, watercolours, and storyboards will complete this exceptional exhibition, where one can even discover Nick Park’s sketchbook as a student, containing the first drawings of Wallace and Gromit, never before seen by the public. The exhibition will display numerous screens, allowing visitors to discover as a family the incredible creativity of the studio, through extracts of its most famous films, but also with more than 60 short and feature films, hilarious advertisements or magical video clips"

Monday, 20 April 2015

Company Research. Factory Transmedia

A multi-genre animation studio, stop - motion, GCI and 2D animation. A studio equip for it all from concept design all the way through to post production and delivery. Having worked on some of the most iconic animated television projects, commercial and series, of the last Twenty Years! 

FIFI and the Flowertots! 

BAFTA nominated Strange Hill High! 

And of course the new series of the famous 1969 British stop-motion series for children. About a family of mice - like - creatures, who live on and inside of a moon-like planet... 

The Clangers!!

Factory Transmedia worked closely with the talents over at Mackinnon and Saunders to produce the Clangers. 

They have a huge client base from CBBC, CBeebies, BBC, Disney, Milkshake, Nick Jr, Sky, Ribena, String cheese, Cadbury and many more. 

Check out more of their incredible work and ongoing projects on their website: 

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Companies and individual inspirations/ research: Harry Potter

I recently decided that I wanted to re-watch all the Harry Potter films, and they got me thinking, they employed people to make their props and make the prosthetics for all the different creatures and monsters. Aragog, the giant spider, was an animatronic not computer generated. Models for Kreature and Dobby were made, and when I was chatting to some of the guys working on Chuck Steel, some of them have made things for live action films as well as stop-motion films. Which I thought was exciting, because I hadn't really thought about that as a possibility.   
I visited the Harry Potter studio's in London a couple years ago, and thought it was incredible, especially the creature room, which had the snake head from the Chamber of Secrets, Buckbeak from The Prisoner of Azakban, Hedwig, Aragog, the dementors etc.. I think the world sometimes gets a little bit caught up in how realistic computer generated images can be, but in order for the computer graphics to look real sometimes they need a physical model to build on, and if the actors are interacting with a CG character, their performance is instantly better if they have some kind of puppet/model/ object to interact with. 

The video below has been filmed at the London studio showing just the creature room and some of the hand made models and gobblin head in there. 

There were so many people who worked on Harry Potter films and so many additional companies brought on board to help with certain things. I haven't been able to distinguish one particular company to look into. Therefore I've briefly researched a few different companies and some individual people as well. 

Nick Dudman caught my eye in particular as some one who worked with prosthetics, creature make up and animatronic puppets on the Harry Potter series. He is a multi-award winning make effects artist. He is certainly a talented guy and inspirational, it would be a priviledge to work with him.  

Some of Nick Dudman's prosthetic goblin heads.

This is how I feel about my final deadline in just over 5 weeks 

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Company research: Mackinnon and Sauders

Well what aspiring model maker would not love to work for Mackinnon and Saunders? 

"Mackinnon & Saunders are one of the world’s leading puppet making companies specialising in the design and construction of characters for television shows,feature films and commercials."
Ian Mackinnon and Peter Saunders' team of talented artists have over 30 years of experience, and have brought some of the worlds love animated puppets to life. From Bob the builder and Postman Pat, to big Hollywood films such as Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox.   

The very company who's artists made the puppets for Tim Burton's Corpse Bride (2005) My favourite Tim Burton film by far. I love the contrast between life and death, and the irony that the land of the dead is more "alive" than the land of the living. Visually the film is extremely engaging with all the beautifully hand crafted puppets, props and sets in their cleverly chosen colours.

Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)

I feel like I've said the same thing about stop motion over 100 times, about how incredible it is. How everything is hand crafted from scratch and the detail is fantastic. Unless your a stop - motion enthusiast, people just don't understand the amazing artistry, unbelievably amount of talent and patients it takes to create such an art form. Therefore, I'm going to try and not repeat myself, but I suggest you have a look at the making of videos for stop-motion films. Below I've added the making of video from Fantastic Mr.Fox, it's only a couple of minutes and worth it too.


Mackinnon and Saunders have made puppets for many feature films but also for commericals and television series too. Not only do they produce puppets but also provide consultancy for all aspects of animated projects from concept designs all the way through to production. The company also provides a full production service from "managing a project in Stop Motion, 2D or CG from concept to final delivery."

We can also help with any individual element of production from concept and script development to character design, budgeting, scheduling, talent hire, shooting and post.

Below is the link to Mackinnon and Saunders website, with a visual portfolio of their work and a full archive of everything they have ever worked on.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Work Experience with Immortal Pictures!!

I haven't posted for a while because for the past four weeks I have had the privilege to do work experience on the feature film "Chuck Steel: Night of the Trampires" written and being directed by Mike Mort. An Immortal Pictures production being produced at a brand spanking new studio based in Bridgend. The Stop-motion animated film is going to be one action packed epic phenomenon! Due for release in 2017. 

I had the opportunity to work in both the art department for two weeks and then the puppet department for a further two weeks. Working in both departments gave me a range of things to work on, and therefore get a real feel for the industry and where I would fit in/ make the best contribution. I have to say I have learnt so much in the four weeks in industry, but unfortunately I am unable to use the things I've learnt in my final year film as I've already made everything and don't have time to re-make anything. However, I'm sure the knowledge will come in useful soon enough.  Below is the short for the film "Chuck Steel: Raging balls of Steel Justice." 

Immortal Pictures Ltd, is a BAFTA award winning stop motion animation company based in the United Kingdom. At the top of the chain of command Mike Mort, producer and director. Having started on mostly commercials and TV series, such as award winning Gogs. Everything stop-motion, immortal pictures provides character design, model making, storyboarding, production and post production services.  

Already the crew at Chuck Steel are one hell of a talented bunch. With people who have worked on Tim Burton's Corpse Bride (2005) Frankenweenie (2012), Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), Aardman's Chicken Run (2000) just to name a few. 

The crew also Includes past students from the very university which I attend. The talented James Carlisle who is puppet assistant on Chuck Steel, and who taught me how to cast body cores using two part fast cast and fil-lite powder. I've linked his blog below if you want to check it out;

The image above is from James Carlisle "cut from the same cloth" an amazing, and touching stop-motion film. 

Two very important modellers at Chuck Steel are Joshua and Nathan Flynn, they're work is very well known at the University of South Wales, and it was their work that drew me to the University. Having graduated 3 years ago, the guys are doing extremely well for themselves, and I strongly recommend you take a look at they're website. 

The image above is from Joshua and Nathan's student film "Opening Night"