Sunday, 16 January 2011

Pixar-research post

An interview with Ed catmul on the process behind the dvelopment of their films.

From 5.03 Ed makes a a very good point, one I've struggled to come to terms with.
Since I've come to the animation departmet to finish off my degree, I've had a nervous habit of hiding my work from the light of day; I've been very defensive and sunk a great deal of my time into materials tests that I thought would be much more acceptable and less ugly than concept art. I've been put off designing on paper and instead been swayed by the idea of specifying the mechanical needs of the puppet.

I really need to get past this mental block I have, Ed's point regards the the trouble I've faced; he talks about switching between two perspectives for designing the architecture of a building. Building from the outside in and vuilding from the inside out; I've been with designing my film on paper and frustrated with designing my film based on my technical possibilities. He (30:38) mentions that until you can 'articulate' an idea in a concise statement you may not move forward without a fear of change. This is one of the failings of my process; I rejected the story and concept of my film as the backbone of my production. I tried to isolate the elements of my project and perfect them individually.

For this reason the momentum left my project; elements that should be informing each other; research, materials tests and design, did not add to each other and 'cross-polinate'. The use of materials might lead to a need for research into alternative character clothing for example, which might lead to ideas for new charactor traits.

This interview with the key directors and founders of Pixar, including Ed Catmull,
supports this view at the professional level.

Andrew stanton mentions the need for momentum in a creative project; (paraphrasing)
a project is like a shark; if it loses momentum it dies. You need to keep making mistakes and not be afraid of making them quickly, otherwise you will have no time to make them and lose the chance to learn.


I have felt a great amount of guilt as it feels like I have done very little work on this project; however it has become apparent that I needed to make a very large mistake regarding my learning process (as described before) at this stage. If I had not, my work may be confused and pull in too many directions. I've come to realise that this mistake making process is essential to making a good, compelling film.
I've seen plenty of other students reference research but in mediums outside of stop-motion, it seems a lot more plausible that they can produce large productions with great scope, that would otherwise require an excess of material.

I've realised that a great deal of my concentration has focused on the development of my animatic and prop designs. Many more of my mistakes have been made trying to prove the plausibility of a compelling narrative using the materials and time that I have for production. I've been forced to redefine what I would consider research and look at materials tests as my primary research.

I feel less guilt now; i simply regret not realising this during the rush towards asessment.

I cant wait to make my film, especially when i relise that most of the mistakes and research are still to come; making working puppets is going to involve just as much research (mistakes making) during production as it dis in pre-production.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

My thoughts on stop motion development.

A freind on my naimation course asked me about stop motion animation in order to answer a question in his practical creative business module.

He asked a very simple question:

Are the steps in pre-production for 2d animation, development, pre-production, production and post production, the same for stop-motion.

The short film I am producing, being a stop motion production, has led me on a merry dance in this regard. What I knew of the planning of 2d shorts didn't directly translate to producing work grounded directly in the physical reality.

He also asked about the time, effort and budget opposed to producing 30 seconds of animation in 2D opposed to stop-motion; these two question require ONE LONG ANSWER.

It was as follows;

"It is the same, however there is a certain amount of overlap between the processes. Its not quite as direct as the planning of a 2D feature; first off your approach might matter. In 2D if you have the skill and the reference you can draft what yu need by drawing it frame by frame.

In stop motion it has to be built or conform to gravity; the whole process can be completely buget led and a limit imposed on the length or scale of the piece of work. Or the process can be story/concept led; then the budget will determine how complex your shots may be in order to tell the story.

Believe it or not, the first option may be the most liberal; as the limit (budget or running time) lets you set a basic limit and your story will grow out the restrictions you place on yourself.

Where things overlap is the constant innovation, research and revision that has to occur at every stage of the film. For instance; building a puppet requires a lot of trial and error and can only really begin once you have a character design in place. However this requires you to experiment with material tests and trial runs to see what is possible. It is entirely possible that you may have to build three unique specialist puppets for different shots; even of the same character.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that in 2D there is no limit to what you can draw, in stop-motion there are no limits to the stages of production. You may be required to find a solution to a range of problems that require the principles of all four areas of production; in a physical space there are physical limits and creative problem solving is required both on the production and shot scale to over come this.

WOO! why didn't I put that in my evaluation?

Basically, it take longer and costs more to construct, design and prepare our characters in stop-motion. However once we have or hands on them the tactile feedback and instant results we experiance without worrying about draughtsmanship let us animate in a much shorter period of time and with greater creative flexibility. Producing a 30 second short may very well be easier in stop-motion because last minute changes and re-shoots are easier when you have physical items you can use again.

This may make it more cost effective when you have greater control over the project.

However it might be wiser and faster to go with 2D if all the shots are planned and the client knows exactly what they want.

In terms of costing; researching, designing and building a (cheap and simple puppet of presentable quality) for commercial work may cost as much as 250 pounds (including surplus material, may be able to make more duplicate pupets). Set design would be cheaper and doesn't always have to stand up to as much scrutiny, a cheap cost may be 100 pounds? These are student rates using student materials and might vary depending on the caliber of client you take on.

In terms of time spent; a 30 second stop motion short could be completed in the following time scale;
research, set design, character design, 2 days.
Materials tests for problem solving, 2 days.
Trial Puppets, a day and a half.
Final puppets, day and a half (per puppet, much longer if casting parts is necessary.)
Set building, 3 Days.
Test animation, 2 days
Final Animation, 3 days

Out of a three week production period, the remaining time would then be spent on foley and sound mix, editing, as normal. I've also tried to factor in time for engineering problems and general problem solving.

However, this is a really rushed production and assumes that sound and lighting are just basing components;
i would expand the production to five weeks to allow for effiency. proper planning of sets, lighting, sound and puppet resouces really needs to be considered in order to make the most of money and time. Stop-motion is unique as it needs some time and consideration for all elements of the project really need to feed into each other.

This time scale assumes that the producer/animator is experianced with his materials/puppets and how they behave on set and under camer/lights. I would expand it again if someone was unused to stop-motion.

In terms of costing I can help you with the approximate cost of materials? and there is a really good book called the guerilla film-makers guide that can help with post-production and pre-production costs?"

I was very proud with a response of such un-solicited magnitude.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

One Sheet


Essentially the 'Poster' That sums up the underlying themes of my film!



THE ABACUS- Animatic from Dale Bird on Vimeo.

This is My New Animatic, It lays things out pretty clearly compared to my previous attempts.

I'm definitely getting better at this!