Production of “The wizard and the lizard”

During the production of “The wizard and the lizard” I was away almost the whole time. I was on holidays in Poland to see my family after a long time. I was keeping in touch with my group on Facebook. I was sent the storyboard and was asked to create some of the backgrounds.

Storyboard (by Sophia Toscan, Chris Calero and Marina Marconi) collage.jpg

That is the background I have created:

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Here is a background I was helping with (first drawn by Marina Marconi, corrected by me):

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Then, when I came back, I’ve put sound effects using website https://www.zapsplat.com/. I was really happy with the outcome same as my classmates.

It was hard to work remotly from Europe but thanks to internet and social media it was possible. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to contribute as much as the rest of the group and I know now that, despite the fact that internet enables us to work from the other side of the world,  it is always better to be close to your classmates and, in future, workmates. Working remotely is harder than I have thought.

Anyway, the result of the project is amazing and I am really proud of my classmates. I am happy that I could work with them and contributed a little.

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Hand drawn vs. stop motion animation

In this post, I would like to compare hand drawn and stop motion animation basing on my experience so far. I have never thought that it will be such fun and same learning curve. I really enjoyed creating animation using both techniques but they were challenging in different ways.

Hand drawn animation gives a lot of opportunities. You can create any animation you can imagine, even creating abstract patterns and making them move. Sometimes that freedom is overwhelming but I guess by the time, with some experience and good drawing skills it would be easier to come up with some idea and create something that looks amazing. These are my previous flipbooks that I have drawn.

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Stop motion animation gives less freedom but, in my opinion, is easier to make. You just need to remember about animation principles and make sure that you move objects in right direction and every frame. It was tricky at first, to remember about every object but then I knew what to do and it was much easier. During exercises my classmates and I created a few stop motion animation movies and it was fun and enjoyable.

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I have learnt a lot about animation and creating progress during these exercises. Regardless of technique, I had to remember about animation principles and storytelling to create something nice to watch. Hand drawn and stop motion animation were the most effective ways to learn how to use principles and storytelling in practise. Both techniques are exciting and enjoyable and it would be hard for me at the moment to pick the favourite one.

 

Stop motion exercise and “Sledgehammer”

During stop motion animation exercises my classmates and I created short film, using two toy action figures and small llama toy. We enjoyed making it and had a great time trying to tell story we have created with just a couple of toys, an IPhone and water bottle as a tripod. I was operating an IPhone and I was struggling with correcting focus and with lighting but at the end the result wasn’t that bad as I thought will be. And that was the outcome.

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Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” is created by by Aardman Animations and the Brothers Quay. The techniques they have used are  claymation, pixilation, and stop motion.

Stop motion is an animation technique that physically manipulates an object so that it appears to move on its own. The object is slightly moved and then photographed, creating the illusion of movement when photographs are played in a fast sequence.

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Claymation is an animation technique using  plasticine or clay. Each object or character is sculpted usually around the metal wire which is an armature and then arranged on the set. Then it is photographed. After the shot the clay is moved or sculpted slightly by hand and prepared for the next shot. After making a bunch of photos then they’re put toghether at over ten to twelve frames per second to create an illusion of movement.

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Pixilation is a stop motion technique where live actors are used as subject in animated movie. They are posing, the shot is taken and then they are changing pose slightly before the next frame.

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Image source:  screenshots from Peter Gabriel “Sledgehammer”

Animation cycles- problems and solutions

Animation cycles are created with couple of frames and include action that can repeat in loop. Using that technique, the animator can reuse such a sequence of drawings over and over again to build up screen time without any additional effort. Some cycles may consist of only two drawings, while others may be involve several tens of complex actions. There are a lot of animation cycles like walking, running, bouncing ball and lots more but all of them must follow the same animation principles to make them look believable and interesting.

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I tried to create my own animation cycle in flip book. Here are some mistakes I have made and solutions to create better animation cycle next time.

  1. Mistake: The figure looks odd.
    Solution: Using reference photos of figure, use basic anatomy to make the animation more believable.
  2. Mistake: The cycle is quite boring.
    Solution: Making storyboard before creating animation to see roughly how the cycle will look like.
  3. Mistake: Animation cycle looks untidy and chaotic.
    Solution: Using pose to pose animation principle to keep size, volume and proportions consistent.
  4. Mistake: Animation cycle doesn’t loop properly.
    Solution: Making first and last frame the same.
  5. Mistake: Body and shoulders look stiff in comparison to arms.
    Solution: Using squash and stretch and secondary action principle.

Flipbook exercise

The exercise that challenged me the most was flipbook animation. I wanted to make a stick figure doing “burpees”. I thought it will be easier but actually it was a big challenge for me.

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The principles I wanted to concentrate on in this animation are arcs and timing. I decided to go straight ahead and to draw frame-by-frame from start to finish because I have found it harder to select key frames and complete the rest. I focused on positioning the head on an arc as well as shoulders and hips. I also created more frames of figure while standing to create sense of timing.

The greatest challenge for me was to keep the animation consistent. I had to correct drawings couple of times because, for example, the spine was shrinking in one of the frames or legs were too long in other. Probably the solution would be drawing the floor at the beginning that would set the stick figure.

Anyway creating this animation was very interesting and it was good to learn from my mistakes.

My first memory of animation

My first vivid memory of animation from my childhood was games Neverhood and Oddworld. I remember how hypnotized I was while playing these games. All characters seemed so real that I believed they were actually existing somewhere. To be honest when I look at the screenshots now, I am surprised how child’s imagination can alter the reality. Klaymen from Neverhood and Abe from Oddworld were real creatures for me by the way they moved, talked and looked. I knew back then I wanted to be that sort of artist- creating different reality which is believable and stays in your memory for a long time.


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Neverhood (1996) is the game made entirely with clay and surreal landscapes and buildings made that game unique.

 

 

Neverhood (1996)


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Neverhood (1996)


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Oddworld (1996)

Mise en scène and composition

Mise-en-scene, from French „putting into the scene” is the arrangement of everything that appears in the framing and influence the verisimilitude or credibility of a film in the eyes of its viewers. It helps telling a story, generating a sense of time and space, mood or character’s state of mind. Key elements of mise-en-scene are set design, lighting, space, composition and movement. All of those have big impact of viewer’s impression of the film. For instance, this is how use of mise-en-scene was explained in “Film art, an introduction” (2010):

While one film might use mise-en-scene to create an impression of realism, other films might seek very different effects: comic exaggeration, supernatural terror, understated beauty, and any number of other functions. We should analyze mise-en-scene’s function in the total film – how it is motivated, how I varies or develops, hot it works in relation to other film techniques.”

Composition is the arrangement of visual elements. In cinematography, is the organization of objects, actors and space within the frame, so how the elements of mise-en-scene
appear in the image.

httpwww.elementsofcinema.comcinematographycomposition.htmlOne of the most popular compositional technique is rule of thirds. It’s a guide that states that arranging
the important features of an image on the intersections of two vertical line and two horizontal lines that divide the image into equal parts. That sort of composition is comfortable to the eye, thus the middle portion of the frame are kept clear.

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Patterns and repetition also may be used to compose the image. Humans are naturally attracted to patterns and they will immediately attract viewer to the image. Also including the element that breaks the pattern will keep the image interesting and audience engaged.

Garden State, 2014

There are some other techniques to use composition in the film to make it more pleasant to watch. For example, if a character is looking frame left, then he should be placed frame right. This makes the framing comfortable because the subject is looking at the open space in front of him. This open space is called lead room or lead space.

Filmmakers use composition to guide viewer’s eye to specific place or object. These techniques are widely used in cinematography. Here I put some examples of interesting composition used in films over the years.

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Raw Deal, 1948

We can see that there is used rule of thirds and interesting composition of lighting and shadows. This creates the sense of mystery, melancholy or fear.

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Lawrence of Arabia, 1962

Point of interest, main character, is on the far right of the shot looking to the left. The space on the left suggest that there is a long way for character to overcome or he is wandering into unknown.
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Cabaret, 1972

Symmetry is pleasing to look at. Lines that create lighting and characters dancing on both sides direct viewer’s eye to look in the middle at main character.

spring breakers 2012

Spring Breakers, 2012

Color and shape used in this shot suggest that something dangerous happens and we follow these characters to see what they are going to do.

Directors and cinematographers think of composition more like painters or illustrators than like theater directors because camera can be used as a point of view of the audience, not like in theatre. This creates lots of possibilities to create interesting shots that sometimes look like a piece of art. Art is a mixture of science and imagination: a little bit of earth, a little bit of sky- Leonardo da Vinci and Fibonacci both making Mona Lisa smile.

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