Lip-syncing myself: Weird Childhood Habits!

For our second lip-syncing project, we recorded our own voices in the ┬ástudio telling an imaginary friend or audience an unusual childhood habit we had. Mine was the fact that my childhood best friend and I used to walk down the stairs on all fours, playing a game that we liked to call “Respect the Dogs.” Weird, right? This is a project I am especially pleased with the result of as I managed to animate it using Adobe After Effects, a program I had previously found quite difficult to grasp with it being quite technical. We drew out different mouths using masks and then created a toggle to switch back and forth between different shapes, which meant that the actual lip-syncing wasn’t complicated at all. Here’s my first draft!

I did need a little assistance when it came to using some of the tools, however I feel like I really got a handle on animating using AE which is a big step for a technophobe such as myself! My biggest confusion ion AE was around creating keyframes and maintaining them, and now I have managed to improve a lot with using the software it’s become much easier to do, especially as the program creates automatic in-betweens for me. I created the background using Photoshop, taking a copyright-free wallpaper for a more homey feel. The character, because I drew using vertices, is a little blocky, but I think it’s quite well-suited to his style – I might go back and add some more movement to his body and head later on. For now I’m just glad to have mastered some very useful tools!

 

Lip-syncing: a first attempt

This week we worked more on our projects for the Bank of England, animating our characters alongside a snippet of dialogue. My character is Jane Austen, speaking the sentence “Money can only give happiness when there is nothing else to give it.” This was a relatively straightforward sentence to animate, as I discovered that lip-syncing is a relatively simple task, provided you stick to the dialogue carefully. As there are only a certain amount of mouth shapes a person can make, the actual shapes aren’t an issue provided they sync up with the dialogue correctly. Here’s my first try!

 

I’m happy with the mouth movements, however I think I’ll probably go back and work more on the body movements as they seem a little rigid. As I animated a static drawing, this made things a little more difficult going forward as every frame had to be drawn in over the top of my original artwork. I like the final page turn at the end though and hopefully I’ll keep this in the final piece of work! This project was a really fun one to do as it was a whole new set of skills.

Skate Pal: raising money for kids in Palestine

My friends and I recently went to Redeckorate, the exhibition and auction of 50 recycled skateboards, designed by 50 different artists from 10 countries to create bespoke pieces of art for charity Skate Pal, a charity that supports young people in Palestine through skateboarding. This is a charity that does really worthwhile work, as a non-profit organisation which works with communities in Palestine to promote skateboarding. As well as building skate parks throughout Palestine, Skatepal also teaches classes to children and provides them with equipment to help with their hobby. More info below:

http://www.skatepal.co.uk

 

The boards we looked at were all individual and creatively unique, using all types of media to create vibrant and beautiful visuals that we really enjoyed:

 

Each artist created a slightly different design, with some going for detailed figures and others opting for a more graphic finish. One of our favourites looked a lot like it was inspired by characters from Persepolis, the Iranian graphic novel written by Marjane Satrapi; others worked with a Palestinian theme, creating a flag and painting skateboarders over the top. All of the designs were really different and appealing in different ways. A great cause and a great night!

Shaping up my old videos!

I have been going back over my old animations recently and cleaning them up for assessment, making them a little neater and hopefully more visually successful. For example, my lift exercise was a bit of a mess the first time around, changing sizes all over the place and doing an awful lot of boiling! This time I cleaned it up significantly, simplifying the movements and keeping the character to one consistent size throughout. This is something I have struggled with a bit on the course, as my natural style tends to be somewhat impulsive and without a lot of structure, meaning there is a tendency of boiling and flickering when trying to animate. However I feel like I improved a lot with this latest version:

 

Then, for my mood change exercise I tried to make the walk look a little more natural (although I feel it is still not quite perfect yet). For my second drafts I have added coloured backgrounds, which I feel makes them a lot more interesting to look at and makes the characters themselves pop out too. Here is my midlife crisis character:

I’m quite pleased with the colours of this animation, as well as the expression of the character as he runs away. And the glasses flying away was another touch I added to the original! I feel like I am getting the hang of layers and backgrounds, and am much more confident with using the software, particularly TVPaint as it is for me the most user-friendly. Here’s my bouncing character, jumping on her trampoline:

 

These three are ones I am quite happy with as they had been much rougher and more sketchy before. Going back over and tracing my previous designs helped me to improve my work, meaning I could choose the layer I liked best and remove the others. They’re not perfect, but so far I think they’re shaping up quite well!

 

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. We shall see how it all shapes up…

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:

 

http://annarickards.portfoliobox.net

 

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.

 

 

 

Storyboarding!

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!