Saturday, 29 December 2012

Creating my character

I knew I wanted my character to be young (probably around the age of 10), female, and a mermaid crossed with a seal. So before I start properly designing my character I did a bit of research into breeds of seals and how humans and people pretending to be mermaids swim under water, which will help both with the structure of my character but also when it comes to animating.

This was the best video footage I could find of a seal swimming, although it is a sea lion and not particularly the breed I was hoping to find, however I wanted to look at their movement. I was really interested to see how they ripple in the water and how their back curves backwards before rippling forwards. I also was interested to see they don't just go in one direction, and weave in and out.

Here are a few screen shots of what I think are the most interesting shapes made.

I then tried to seek out how other animations had dealt with seals, and remembered about this childhood favourite. Although it doesn't really focus on seals in the water (other than in the bath!) it concentrates on their walk when on dry land. Considering my character is crossed with a human though this may not matter much as she won't be out the water much! But it is a good reference for general expressions and movement. There is a good section at the end where the seal is swimming around in the shower though, which clearly has taken reference from real life as I can see the exact same movement patterns as the video shown before.

Here are a few screen shots which I feel show the seals at their best! In these two pictures you can see a group of adult seals, all acting in different ways but still noticeably in a realistic way to how they would behave, however some poses are exaggerated for comic effect.
These were the key poses in the shower sequence which I found the most interesting, and there is a very obvious curve in the seals shape, really exaggerating and highlighting its movement.

Although I haven't properly watched this film, when trying to find animations which featured seals this came up, and had an interesting swimming style. Instead of showing them swim underwater they show them above the water saving 
In the first picture you can see the attention to detail on the water splashing, but in the picture underneath you can see how very little attention to detail has been taken in the rest of the seals animation and movement.

After struggling to find or remember any animations with seals I tried picking other peoples minds, and my mum suggested Happy Feet. Although the seal characters in this film are the villainous characters and not quite the aesthetic I would be going for, it was interesting to see the split side of their personality, and more so the attention to detail of their skin.
These screen shots again were just a few interesting shapes made, with the last still really showing the fine patterning on the seals body.

Footage of mermaids seemed to be easier to find somehow!?

My first port of call, which may not be everyone's first idea, but I was interested in underwater photography and how the models act underwater and more importantly how they are told to act. In this video I was mainly interested in the two women's movement

Like the other videos I have indicated the movement and poses I found most interesting. In some of these shots there are interesting movements in her clothing, although it is tighter than later underwater photo shoots I go on to look at, I think these may be more interesting to study, as I am still on edge about giving my character the stereotypical flowing long hair and clothing of a mermaid.
Here is a slower breakdown of their movement, with the woman on the right being a little more in movement and showing a smooth curvature of the back again, which is very similar to the movement of the seals earlier on. I feel that by referencing these movements together it could easily create a believable movement for my character.

Rather than underwater photography, this comes under the dance category. Although she doesn't really move in the way a mermaid would perhaps (as she has lots of leg movements), I was mainly interested in her upper body movement and particularly the ripples created in the fabric. This video is also the models showcase, so purposely is very artistic and experimental in the positioning and movement she creates.

In these images, I really liked the upper body poses, shapes that the fabric created and in the last two images I was really interested in the reflection above her head from where the edge of the water is. In the last three images in particular I think it would be possible to turn her into a mermaid as the legs are close together and could easily be shaped into a possible movement, yet my favourite shape by far is the first image.

Although this video is a photography and video shoot aimed at selling the model and her work for potential client work, this time it is based solely on her 'being a mermaid'. 
In all of these stills you can see her swimming in the water with the tail on, showing her interaction with the water (splashing and rippling around her), and how she actually is able to swim without kicking her legs.
In the beginning of the video it focuses on her sat acting like a mermaid on rocks. As I hadn't looked at mermaids on land yet, I found this useful, especially regarding shapes created.

This underwater photo shoot uses the same model as the last two videos.

With these two sets of stills, I found it interesting to see them taking the photographs and the model's movements, but then in the video they showed the final images from the photo shoot, which in themselves are great to use as a reference point. Like the other dance video, you can see the reflections on the water, which I feel really adds depth to the image, and creates really weird imagery and a distorted look at the model.

This is more of an experimental artistic video, which just so happens to be underwater with lots of flowing fabric. In this video I liked the textures, murkiness of the water, Bokeh effect from the lighting and the small air bubbles.
Mermaid from Alex Yegorov on Vimeo.
As stated before, these stills contain all the elements which I found most interesting about this video.

This is a video not done for modelling purposes, and simply to show the movement of the woman being a mermaid. Which is more helpful for my work, as it fully concentrates on how they would probably naturally move, rather than posing and elongating the in-betweens of the key poses.
Mermaid?? from tuscan sun on Vimeo.
I loved the use of light in these shots, which in previous videos haven't played a massive part in the videos, but regarding the animation part of my module I feel that this is a key element I really need to focus on, letting me create the right atmosphere for my piece. I also really like the colour in this one too.

After staring this blog post I suddenly remembered (not sure how I forgot really) about Traci Hines, a woman who is often known as the 'real life Ariel' who I have been following for a few years now. She is a singer and model, who also works at the Disney parks often in the role as Ariel, but also the other princesses. This photo shoot however is truly breathtaking, and she really plays the role of a mermaid well.
Serenia Mermaid Shoot 2010 from Indigo Verse on Vimeo.
Like the other video's I have taken screen shots of frames I found particularly interesting. The ones I really like though are the silhouettes, as it really gives the idea of shape rather than focusing on the detailing and colours. The main sections I enjoyed watching the post in the video however was actually her being carried from one location to the next, as you could see how her tail flips and moves when 'sitting down'.
Here are a few of the final images from the photo shoot taken from their website. The vibrance in colour against the setting is beautiful.

Mermaids are often found in anime series' and this particular one (Mermaid Melody) is one that I am watching at the moment. Although the content is a little cheesy, the movement of the mermaids are simple and easily to recreate, without being too unrealistic.

These are screenshots from the video, of particular sections I liked.
In this frame I like the bend in her back, and how from just this screen shot you can see the movement in her stance, and how her hair flows and ripples as she swims too.
In this frame I really like her stance and the shapes made both by her body and tail, and her hair. The shapes create a really interesting negative space.

When mermaids are concerned usually the first thing that comes to mind is Disney's great 'The Little Mermaid'. Although personally I feel that the swimming feels too rushed and not fluid enough, however the slower movements and motions where she is still or just about to start/finish swimming are really nicely timed. It is also really impressively animated when the camera is moving in various positions and almost swimming alongside Ariel. I also noticed that like a dogs tail, it is never fully still for long periods of time and does the odd flick up and back down again.

These shapes formed are really lovely and well thought out. I especially enjoy watching the end tail fins move and layer on top of each other creating different tones as they are slightly opaque.
This section of the video is where Ariel is mimicking how humans walk or 'strut' in her case, over exaggerating the wiggle in her hips, which surprisingly goes to a very straight pose.
Here shows her movement progressing as she is spiralling upwards towards the roof of the cave. I was really shocked to see the second frame and how bent her neck is, which obviously is building suspense leading towards her sudden curve upwards.
In these three images you can see Ariel spinning going upwards towards the camera. Although her movement of her body is interesting in this, I was mainly interested in the movement of her hair, as it adds more believability to her movement as a whole.

Another Disney film which includes mermaids is Peterpan. Unlike The Little Mermaid, these mermaids have split personalities and are polite and lady like, and in most ways elegant and beautiful; but when threatened by Wendy's presence they soon flip to be viscous and rude splashing her and 'only trying to drown her'. I think this split is very similar to how people perceive seals in a way, as often they are shown as cute animals, but in reality they are also viscous predators as shown by Happy Feet.

These stills are ones I found the most interesting, mainly for their shapes and their interaction with the water.
I really like these stills where one of the mermaids sits on a rock under a waterfall, and how the water reacts to her, bouncing off her shoulders and arms in interesting ways, as well as the water underneath the rock where she is sat is rippling and creating patterns from the water droplets hitting.
I love the extended poses of these three mermaids, really trying to catch Peter's attention, especially of the blonde mermaid in the second still. It really elongates her body, and creates an interesting shape between her left arm and waist.
Like the waterfall stills, I love how the water reacts to the two sections of her body in the first still, and the water ready to splash in the second. I also noticed the very subtle colour change of her body from when she is in and out the water, which subconsciously lets the watcher link in their minds which setting she is in.
This is a breakdown of the mermaids panicking and jumping into the water. I find it quite amusing to watch how some poses aren't as elegant as they have been seen to the run up of this moment. Especially in the third picture.


  1. Beautiful images! I can tell you have put in a lot of hard work sourcing them,mum x

    1. This blog post took me ages to do! Thank you :)