Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Character Research

Whilst doing some character sketches for my spinning tops, which i am yet to scan in, i discovered that it was easy to make the spinning top look like a spinning tops, but it was difficult to make them look like spinning tops aswell as ballet dancers, mainly the male one. So i thought it would be relevant to check out some more reference images on ballet dancers.

Female Ballet Dancer:

The female ballet dancer tends to be rather small in size, quite petite with long skinny arms and legs to match. They also tend to wear frilly tutu dresses which are wide around the waist. This why i have chosen to use the spinning top with a slim top, a wide middle part, to represent the dress and a skinny point towards the bottom to be the legs.

Male Spinning Top:

For my male spinning top, i decided it needed to look far more masculine than the female one, showing an obvious difference so the viewer will be able to depict the two straight away. To make sure i make the spinning top masculine, i decided to use the spinning top which is tall and slim, but then based the shape of it on the Oscar trophy.

Swan Lake Music

Here's the music for my animation, this time around i am going to base my animation on the music rather than the sound effects, but i will add some sound effects in, possibly a general audience noise, shuffling feet etc. Plus i will of course also need to have the sound effect for someone being sick.

Its not the final piece yet, seeing as its 1;30, i will try to cut it down and stitch it together nicely so it will play fluently, but if worst comes to worst it means a lot more drawings :S

(the quality is quite bad, i just quickly knocked it up just for the sound)

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Norman Mclaren - Pas de Deux

Going back to some of the previous lectures on animation, i believe it was the one with Walt Disney's Fantasia. I remembered the ballet performance we watched by Norman Mclaren which involved an unfolding dance between a male and a female ballerina, known as a Pas de Deux.

This has proved very helpful in the research into this project, seeing as my story will be based on a Pas de Deux. Watching the video has given me some ideas for different dancing positions, but it will prove very hard to make them look like different positions seeing as the spinning tops wont have any arms.

Here are the links, i cant manage to get the new YouTube embed to work...

Pas de Deux pt1

Pas de Deux pt2

Monday, 29 March 2010


Up (2009) is the latest Pixar movie to be released, and in my opinion the best one yet. Its not just a great looking movie to laugh at, but also a really deep and meaningful movie based on the grief of a loved one.

A basic out line of the Up would be, a story of grief based on an adventure to Paradise Falls jam packed with annoying circumstances along the way. The main character Carl, a grumpy old man, and his passed away wife Ellie Frederickson, lived a life long dream of following there hero Charles Muntz, adventurer, to Paradise Falls 'a land lost in time'. But due to the unfortunate events in life never managed to complete there dream.

Now with Ellie gone, and the neighbourhood in which they once lived in changing, Carl has nothing else to stay for, and set out to complete there dream and fly there house to Paradise Falls using thousands of balloons tied to his house. But just like there life nothing has ever gone to plan, a wilderness explorer named Russell has placed himself onto the house porch whilst Carl has released the balloons, flying the house as well as Russell away.

The couple land on Paradise Falls and find themselves within the company of two new explorers, a talking dog named Doug, who's master is Charles Muntz and a strange bird named Kevin, who Muntz as well as Doug is hunting to take back to civilisation. Along the way through paradise falls the group find them selves under going various missions to leave Kevin at peace from Muntz, and to land Carls house, who represents Ellie, right next to the waterfall like they have always dreamed.

Pixar is known to follow the theory of, for every funny moment there has to be a sad one, and this movie of course applies. The mood within the story can be funny in one frame but then sad in the next, this good use of storytelling allows this movie to be what it is, truly brilliant.

Storytelling aside, other points to make in which allow the movie to be truly brilliants are its superb character design, its in depth environment and its fluent animation. Its safe to say that's Pixar's attention to detail allow all these points to come to life in an epic movie heavily influenced by movies which range from The Lost World to The Wizard of Oz even to Star Wars.

In the DVD extras there is a short documentary which is definitely worth taking a look at, it talks about the production teams journey to south America, which shows that all the environments in the movie are true to the way they look on screen and the various different endings in which involve Muntz's death and the meanings behind them.

Again in my opinion the best Pixar movie yet, and the anticipated movie in which we have had to watch on the course.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Story Idea # 02

Not so Swan Lake

Act One:

The spinning tops a ballerina performing the famous Pas de Deux form Swan Lake. The spinning top and its partner hop on to the stage and introduce each other as they prepare to begin there performance.

Act Two:

The spinning tops start the performance, the dance is elegant and very beautiful, full of passion and connection between the two spinning tops. The couple perform various different dance moves leading to the finale 'big spin'.

Act Three:

The Pas de Deux is approaching the end of the performance, leaving just the finale 'big spin'. During the 'big spin' the spinning top looses control, gets dizzy and falls to the floor, leaving the performance with a not so elegant end. As the spinning top gets back up to regain its balance, it suddenly starts to heave as though it is going to be sick.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Animation Workshop # 01 - Name Morph

Here's my first ever hand drawn animation, other than the joint effort on the face morph of course. Its a bit jumpy but i think its okay, it took a lot longer than i predicted but i guess everything in CG is like that :)

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Spinning Top Lift

Whilst gathering some more research on spinning tops, i came across this video on YouTube, its a double spinning top. I'm not exactly sure about how it works or why it works, but it answered my problem on how to make spinning tops take part in a ballet lift.

The spinning top would hop on its little leg when not dancing and only spin when it is dancing. So i imagine the spinning top hopping out onto the stage and spinning only when it starts dancing, so i also imagine the female spinning top hopping along and up onto the male spinning top, then taking part in a movement like this...

Dancing Vases

I found this article that strangely brings across the idea that a spinning top could be a ballet dancer.

Dancing vases by Robin van Hontem

Five unique pieces are Robin van Hontem’s collection of vases that look more like a familiar toy: the spinning top. The name, “Dancing Vases” derives from the motion of the spinning top, which looks like a dancing ballerina practicing her pirouettes.

Van Hontem captured a sequence of the toy’s moves – a set of the most typical stages of a spinning top's journey until it finally loses its balance and hits the ground.

I find these spinning tops to be really elegant and replicate the ballet dancer perfectly, hopefully i could capture this essence when it comes designing my character.

Swan Lake - Pas de Deux

To get a better understanding of pas de deux, Phil linked me some different videos of famous dances, Swan Lake and the Nutcracker. From there onwards i found many more, but the most interesting of them all has to be Swan Lake. The music in the video is very familiar would work very well against the ballet dancing spinning top. The first 1 minute 30 seconds would work quite well, its just a shame that its 30 seconds too long.

For some reason the embed wont work but here's the link...

Whilst the build up at the beginning of the music is playing, i can imagine a title fading in and out then the entrance of the characters, then whilst the tune kicks in i can imagine the spinning tops move around really elegantly, then the music really builds up and up and gets really intense. Whilst this is playing i can imagine the spinning top building up a really big spin or dance, then whilst the music drops, the spinning top trips. And all ends horribly, the spinning top gets up and is heaving, about to be sick.

Spinning Top Ballerina

As mentioned before another idea i thought of whilst doing some visual research on YouTube is that the spinning top could be a ballerina. Spinning tops move quite gracefully, likewise does a ballerina plus when you spin a spinning top in the right way they spin as if they were dancing.

The video that inspired this idea is this one, as you can see the spinning top could replicate that of a ballerina. With the addition of a few more spinning tops, it could replicate a ballet performance.

With this idea in mind Phil mentioned the performance could be a 'pas de deux' (French for step/dance for two) which means a duet in which ballet steps are performed together. This dance is performed using a male and female ballet dancer, which usually consists of; an entree (an opening performance for a grand pas defined as big or large step) an adagio (slow enfolding movements) two variations (a solo dance, one for each dancer) and a coda (a passage which brings movement to conclusion, usually brings all dancers on stage).

To define the different sex between the spinning top i would use different styles of spinning tops, a more elegant wider spinning top to replicate the dress for the female, and taller more masculine looking one for the male. I could also use different colours to replicate the sex, for example pink for the female and blue for the male.

Jason and the Argonauts

Jason and the Argonauts (1963) is a movie set in mythological Greece based on an adventure in which Jason (the main character) has been set by the gods. He assembles a crew of the finest men in Greece and sets out to find and bring back the golden fleece.

During Jason's adventure to find the golden fleece, he comes across various different mythological creatures, all of which were animated using stop motion animation by Ray Harryhausen. These creatures include; Talos (a bronze giant statue), Harpies (blue winged creatures), a Hydra (multiple headed serpent) and armed skeletons which are the most famous of the creatures due to its epic 4 minute stop motion sequence at the end of the film.

All the creatures in the film had been animated very well which brought across a slight sense of realism for its age, the majority of movements by the actors would suggest that they were actually moving around a creature, with only a few minor movements to suggest otherwise. For example a few swings into the air during the skeleton battle sequence, which is fully understandable due to its age and complex movements.

A few favourite moments in the film would be the encounter with Talos, due to its detailed model and the battle with the skeletons, due to its complex choreography.

Life Drawing - Class 8

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Story Idea # 01

A spinning tops first spin.

Act One:

Its a child's birthday and on the floor is a pile of box's and birthday presents. Next to the presents is an opened box, and next to that opened box is a spinning top lying there on the floor unused.

Act Two:

The spinning top slowly comes to life and realises that he has not yet been used. It then hops up and has a few attempts at spinning itself, each time not going so well and falling to the floor. On its third attempt the spinning top gets some momentum and starts to spin like a spinning top should. The spinning top spins and spins like there is nothing else to do in the world,but all doesn't go to plan. The spinning top starts to get really wobbly and spins out of control.

Act Three:

As the spinning top looses its control, its moving about every where desperately trying to catch its balance. Its hits the floor, slowly gets back up to regain its balance, shakes of the fall but suddenly starts to heave as though it is going to be sick due to dizziness and all the spinning.

I have tried to keep the story as simple and clear as possible due to the fact that i do not want to over complicate the story. I think the simplicity of this story really works in its favour, and helps push forward the innocence in the character of the spinning top.

King Kong

King Kong (1933) at truly breathtaking movie and the first of its kind. I must admit i am one of those hands that had never seen it before, all of it anyway, i think we all must have encountered that iconic empire state scene at least once in our lives.

Kong's story follows a group of sailors, a film director, and his young female actress on there voyage to a lost island, in which habitats pre historic animals such as dinosaurs, giant spiders and of course a massive ape. Once on the island they encounter a tribe of what i can only imagine to be Zulu warriors, sacrifice's, a gigantic wall captivating the beasts, epic battles between dinosaurs and apes and a mission to rescue there stolen actress which leaves 12 men dead.

Once they have rescued the actress and are in the safe zone, the crazy director soon realises he can capture this beast, bring it back to New York, name it the eighth wonder of the world, and create a handsome amount of money from it. This all goes to plan until the beast breaks free, releases it anger onto the city, takes back his female actress (who he has grown fond of) and takes part in the most iconic movie scene of all time.

What allows this movie to be so iconic and influential still to this day, is not only the fact that it was one of the first beasts to wreak havoc on New York City. But was also the first to include stop motion animation in a feature length film to high standards. For a film to be made in 1933 and include great detail in the combination of live footage and stop motion animation is just pure genius, which must have came from a genius itself, special effects artist Willis H O'Brien.

Animation aside, another part of the movie which i found truly inspiring was its set design. Like mentioned before, for a movie created in 1933, a great amount of detail and realism has been put into the environment. Environment wise the switch between live footage and animation is barely noticed, which is a huge bonus on there behalf.

Since the creation of this movie there have been many remakes, the most recent of them being Peter Jackson's in 2005. Comparing the two films there is hardly any difference in the story of the film and the set design is pretty much the same, just set to the high standards of the modern day, and has in my opinion done the original justice.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Spinning Top Concept # 01

Here's some initial concept sketches that i produced earlier, as you can see they are all the same in shape, i was simply trying to refine it as closely as possible to the reference image. I was also trying to show emotion in the movement of the spinning top.

Here's the reference images i was using, i see them to be quite innocent and child like, especially with the multicolour stripes.

I drew these sketches in mind for the spinning tops first spin story. But since then i have thought of a new story which follows a more elegant spinning top which will pose as a ballerina, i will make a post for this idea shortly.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Maya: Rigging Legs Tutorial

I reckon this is one of the more complex tutorials we have has so far for maya. Lots of inputting numbers and editors :) I thought it was a good tutorial, a tad complicated at times but i guess this is expected in the future tutorials.

More Spinning Tops

So you may be thinking to yourself, wow a spinning top. Well i certainly did anyway, but that was a very foolish thought to be thinking. You may also be thinking to yourself how many spinning tops are there? 5 maybe 10? Wrong again, there are an absolute **** loads and just as many spinning top enthusiasts to match. Check out this video for example, this is just one fan with his various spinning tops, which is actually quite inspirational to draw stories from.

This video has given me an insight into the way spinning tops maneuver, which would make the story much more interesting instead of just the generic spinning top movement we all imagine in our heads.

Spinning tops can do trick and a bit of freestyle? Well according to this video they can.

From this video it has given me the idea of the spinning top being a graceful ballet dancer, which has a dreadful end to such a beautiful performance. I don't know about anyone else but from the shape of this one, it just shouts out ballet dancer.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Story Development

As you all know we have to create a three act story idea and animated for this unit, i got given the words bilious (to be sick) and spinning top, this is a blessing seeing as the words go together perfectly, but I'm still struggling to think of a decent story idea that's simple but effective.

What i have so far is the idea that, its the spinning tops first spin out the box so he doesn't take it so well and starts to feel sick and heave. What I'm struggling on now though, is how to show this as a story. I do really like the idea of the spinning top being the character, rather than an object that a character uses. Some quite inspirational animation shorts are 'steam boat willie of computer generated animation' Luxo jr, and Tin Toy.

Luxo Jr:

What really inspires me from this animation is how human/character like the emotion can be in a desk lamp. Just the slightest of movement can mean a different emotion within its 'head'. This is what i am looking to do in my character the spinning top.

Tin Toy:

From Tin Toy, an alison i got the idea of the toy being straight out of the box which would then mean that it would be its first spin, and not knowing how he will take it, which he will soon find out to be throwing up.

As good as this idea is (for a first one anyway), i still think there is something i am missing, some sort of other stroy exlanation.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Life Drawing - Class 7

The epic return of life drawing, its been a while but i rather enjoyed it. I was a bit rusty in the first couple of drawings but i feel as though I'm getting back in the stride of it all in the last two. Its a late post but i only just got hands on my camera.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Essay Subject - John Lasseter

As you all know, this time around for our essay we have to write 1500 words on our own chosen animator and his work. I have chosen to write about John Lasseter from Pixar. From what i have read so far he has lead a pretty interesting life, so it should be good to find out more.