Lip-syncing and Austen wisdom

This week, we have started the somewhat intimidating process of lip syncing. I have been a little wary of this process as I thought it would be really difficult to achieve well – as it turns out, it has not been as difficult as I thought! However, combining it with body language that doesn’t look overenthusiastic is more of a challenge. I was given a line of Jane Austen’s to lip sync – here is my portrait of her, as well as a couple of mouth shapes I created for her:


Because there are only a certain number of ways a mouth can move, it’s more a question of timing and duration than variety. It’s easy enough to create the shapes and substitute them in, however the difficulty lies in syncing them perfectly with the piece of dialogue so that it looks realistic. In class we looked at a couple of (very badly) dubbed films to show the way that studios would favourite closed-mouth consonants over vowels, as this would make it easier to sync up another person’s dubbed voice. We planned out the dialogue on an X sheet in order to make sure the animated mouth would move at the right times, syncing up with the snippet of dialogue we had been given. I’m looking forward to learning a bit more about the process, as it’s sure to come in handy in the future…

Green Screening: The final cut

Last Wednesday, we finalised our green screen movies and managed to create backgrounds for ourselves to explore. Anita taught as a bit about using After Effects, importing our videos and keying out the green to put in a new background, also showing us how to animate a mask around our actor which I found really useful. This sort of technical work came in really handy when editing our videos later on, as we learned how to make our footage look less transparent, how to add different lighting and special effects to our work like snow and rain and how we could utilise different layers to add animations to our work if we wished to.


I kept mine fairly simple, using a combination of photographs and drawing to make myself a high-rise purple office, compositing it together so that I appeared in the bottom of the screen at my ‘desk’. Here’s the final video!



Back at it again: Life Drawing Class

Last Thursday I went to my first life drawing class of the semester. Having not been for a couple of weeks, I felt a little rusty, but soon got back into the swing of things! As usual Adrian thought of some inventive poses using the props, and I worked on creating fuller and more 3-dimensional looking drawings, as in the past my work had looked a little flat. Though I still struggle a bit with shadows and lighting, I feel as though I have improved and am able to create drawings much faster (though I still have a habit of drawing the head first, a strong no in Vanessa’s books…) Here are a couple of examples of the work I did.


I had previously found life drawing to be quite daunting, but recently found myself getting more confident in using shape and line. I tend to lean towards strong lines rather than sketchy ones still, as I primarily work with pen usually, which could be a problem when I needed to change my line. I also still sometimes have issues with perspective, relying on my imagination more than I should when everything I need is right in front of me! However I definitely feel that practice makes perfect, and the more I draw the better I hope to become. Here are a couple more:



The rest I have uploaded to my own portfolio website, alongside my character designs:


I’m glad to be developing my figure-drawing skills as this was my biggest challenge in drawing before I came to CSM. I’ve definitely still got a way to go, but am feeling much more confident about it.





This week, we had a really fun storyboarding session with Bianca Ansems, currently a storyboarder for Disney. As storyboarding is something I am interested in going into, I found this session really useful – we talked a bit at the beginning about her work, how she got into storyboarding and how to get used to freelance life, as well as the dos and don’ts of networking in the animation industry. She explained that it was useful to have an adaptability of style, as you would therefore have more varied skills when it came to working in the future – this is something I definitely need to work on! She also told us a bit about the more practical side of storyboarding, such as the time it would take her to create one storyboarded scene and the general deadlines that would be standard within the industry.


We looked at storytelling as an art, taking into account such things as camera angles, composition, cuts and continuity, examining various different types of camera angle used to portray different moods and ideas. We also had a go at doing our own storyboards, which proved a fun but challenging project:



Here is my attempt to recreate the script given to me. In this script, comic timing was the important factor, as in order for the joke to work the finish had to be delivered in the right way so that it would be funny to an audience. I had a little difficulty with angles and positioning of characters, often putting them in a corner when they should be centre-screen, but on the whole found it a really fun exercise. Here is another attempt, this time a scene from the original Blade Runner:



This might be hard to connect with the original scene, which Bianca played to us beforehand – I kept most of the scenes quite similar to the movie, but added in a close up of the counterman’s hands slapping the fish menu down on the bar as I thought this would be an interesting shot to have. Again I had a bit of trouble with the positioning of the camera – for example, the second last frame is at an awkward angle and only shows half of a head, which in an actual film would be very strange choice of camera position. It’s these sorts of things I’d not thought about before, so were really useful to learn! Storytelling is one of my favourite parts of animation and I think one of the most integral, so this was a great class to have.

Green Screening!

This week we tried out a fun new experiment – Green Screen! As something I’d never done before, I found this a really exciting assignment. We came into class in the morning with an idea for a 20 second film, that we would either star in ourselves or enlist the help of a friend to act out for us. We learned a bit about the lights and positioning of the camera, before setting up in our costumes to perform:



Pei’s costume was a ballerina tutu, which she wore with a hoodie stuffed with snacks! Mine was a fur coat and hat, as well as some very pointy stilettos. In my story I was listening to a phone call and petting my villainess-style pet, when suddenly the call displeased me and I threw it to the floor, kicking my poor dog off shot and stomping away in the scarlet heels. It was really fun to film, even though I usually get self conscious and uncomfortable in front of cameras!



Here is Kosta, asleep on “a cloud” – we will need to import our movies into After Effects in order to create our backgrounds. My plan for mine is to create an open-plan office space, looking out over a big city skyline. Stay tuned for the movie itself…

Klimt and Schiele at the RA

This weekend, some friends and I went to visit the Klimt and Schiele exhibition at the Royal Academy. Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele, big names in the Viennese modernist movement, created evocative and often provocative images of their subjects, experimenting with different forms to create varied and interesting pieces of work. Schiele’s work, though different in style, was greatly inspired by the work of Klimt, with Schiele seeing himself as Klimt’s successor. Here is his own self-portrait:



Looking at Klimt’s work, we see that he was less focused on self portraits, looking at nude figures using a softer and more gentle line:



Both artists draw extremely boldly, with a strong sense of movement in their work; they are focused particularly on the expressions of their subjects, often only drawing their faces in detail and leaving the other features quite stark.



Subtle use of lines and shadow creates a focus on the subjects’ faces, for example here:



We really enjoyed looking at all of the drawings as they explored a range of different moods and levels of candour, from the gentle to the aggressive. I would definitely recommend a visit!


Character and Movement Class

As we have been moving more towards body acting, our class had looked at various different ways of portraying character through movement and body language. This included lots of physical exercises, moving a partner around manually and looking at balance as well as trying to suss out what your partner was trying to portray in the movements that she made you do.


We attempted to “animate” each other by guiding our partners around the room, embodying a character that we had thought of. Here are some drawings I did of the characters we attempted to portray:

This was a warrior princess, skilled with a bow and arrow and thoroughly bored by the constraints of royal life. She was quite fun to play as it involved a lot of swinging about of an imaginary sword and shooting of arrows! My character was a grumpy, isolated houseboat owner with a little cat:


He enjoys painting (mostly paintings of his cat) and used to be a chef, but his life on the houseboat can get lonely at times. I may have a think over this idea and use it in a future project… Next is green screen projects, which is a daunting but exciting prospect!


Natural History Museum Trip

First week back in class and on Wednesday we had a class trip to the Natural History Museum to draw some of the animals there. This was really useful to teach us a bit more about anatomy and bone structure, as we have been working on our animal runs and gallops this term. I started out by trying to draw some skeletons, which proved quite challenging:



This horse skeleton had a lot more ribs than I bargained for, meaning I only managed to fit about half of it onto my page! Most of our class started with the mammals, moving on later to the other exhibits. Here is another drawing I did of the African Civet:



As well as the animals themselves, we also focused on recreating the environments around them, which was a useful exercise in working with different perspectives as well as providing some context to where the objects were. I sketched some of my classmates as they did the same to me, looking at the different shapes and planes of the exhibits:




In my feedback I was told that I should be thinking more about tone, as some of the drawings had a tendency of looking quite flat. As my style leans naturally toward being cartoonish, I did at times find it difficult to create realistic-looking drawings, especially when it came to creating animals like mice and bats. However it was great to get a feel for animal anatomy. Here is a link to my first animal run:


Next week is Green Screens and I am looking forward to that!





Walk Cycles!

This week, we started to work on a couple of walk cycles, which I found to be a really fun exercise. We started out with simple walks, then moving on to more complicated styles of walking such as tiptoeing, running, catwalk prancing and sneaking – I tried a couple out on TV paint, using a ballerina as my character. Here’s my ballet dancer tiptoeing:

Here she is walking normally:

Though I wanted the arms to follow through a bit more and swing more fluidly, I was quite pleased with these two, particularly the normal walk, as I had had some problems in the initial stages trying to make the walk look natural enough. After being dissuaded from trying out the fashion walk (a little too much hip movement for an initial attempt!) I thought that the normal walk ended up looking good, if a little wiggly still. We then tried out similar walk cycles in Animate CC, using shapes:



I found this exercise a lot more challenging and somewhat frustrating, as I managed to get the legs moving but struggled much more with the arms and torso – the bounce of the body and head was what I found most difficult with this task. One to go back over and look at again for sure! Walk cycles are really useful for displaying different moods and feelings in a character, and doing these exercises definitely helped me a lot when we began to do our character mood changes later on…

Character Designing

One of our projects this week was looking into character design in a bit more depth, with the help of Pen Mendonca, who told us a little bit about what she does in terms of educational illustration. She showed us some examples of strong characters, and we talked a little bit about what sorts of things made a strong character; we came to the conclusion that it was complexity, a sort of ‘grey area”, that made characters seem the most realistic and authentic. Having used the Stanislavsky 7 questions in our previous class to try and flesh out characters, this class built on that idea significantly. Here is an example of some character poses I did for my librarian character, Millicent Quark:

As you can see, she has a penchant for organisation and red lipstick! I wanted to add some depth to her character, as I felt that she was a little 2-dimensional, so this class was a very useful one for me. ¬†Our class wrote out character descriptions and then passed them on to students further round the room to draw out and elaborate on. There was a mixed response to this – I found it strange having a character in my head created by someone else, but it was interesting to see how my description was portrayed, and other students suggested that it was actually less pressure to draw to someone else’s brief. Some of the animal characters became human, and vice versa, and things got very complicated when we started adding friends and enemies into the mix.

Character design being one of my favourite parts of the process, I really liked this class and the exercises we did. Maybe Bob has some potential yet…