Saturday, 18 May 2013

Canterbury Anifest

A few months ago now, I went to Canterbury’s animation festival, Anifest. I didn’t really know what to expect, as this was the first event like this that I have attended, but I was blown away by most of the guest speaker’s talks, as well as the beautiful short animations shown on the Friday night.
Ray Harryhausen

On the Friday we arrived in Canterbury, where the first talk of the weekend was ran by Tony Dalton, a friend and enthusiast of Ray Harryhausen, who has curated his latest exhibition, along with writing 5 books about his work. 

During this talk I found out a great deal about Harryhausen’s background and how his enthusiasm and knowledge of animation started to grow. I had never previously realised quite how many feature films he had created in his lifetime (a whole whacking great 16 of them, along with shorts), and how little of his work I have actually ever seen. 

Dalton also explained the obscure techniques that Harryhausen used in producing some of his most loved pieces. I was most interested in the making of the film ‘Evolution of the World’, as Harryhausen uses trickery to force perspective, by using layers of glass paintings in front of the sets. I was also fascinated to find that when animating ‘Earth VS the Flying Saucers’, he individually hand painted each wire used to match the background exactly, and did this for every scene! That is dedication if ever I have seen it!

Animation shorts

After the Harryhausen talk we were able to have a small break to grab a drink before heading back into the main hall where a selection of this years best international shorts as well as British shorts (followed by an award ceremony for the best in different categories). Overall I preferred the showings of the international films, as it was very apparent that these animators had a strong understanding of the basic principles along with phenomenal skill in the methods they used and the narratives chosen. 

This was the first of the international animations to be shown, and is actually one I have already seen on Vimeo (however the Vimeo video is now private). Viewing it on the big screen with 100 other people (as enticed as I was) was a completely different experience though, and made the sheer beauty of the story even more striking.  I adore the themes of friendship and humanity, creating a fundamental part of the narrative and our emotions towards the main protagonist.

Feral trailer from Daniel Sousa on Vimeo.
I was most excited about when this animation was shown, as I had seen the short trailer of this previously over summer and have been keeping a close watch for when the whole video would be released. I hadn’t realised that this animation was in the programme until it came up on screen, which was a pleasant surprise. Words can’t even begin to describe how much I love everything about this animation. The limited use of colours, the rough textures which change according to the situation the boy is in, the angles used to heighten the contrast between the characters, the heart-breaking storyline, the beautifully thought out characters, the general drawing style, just everything. It is so beautiful and original. 

This hilarious and witty animation really caught my eye. I wasn’t particularly blown away by the drawing style or the general look of the animation, but the concept and final outcome was absolutely hilarious and really made me laugh. It just proves that with a strong narrative you are able to gain a larger audience, rather than just focusing on the look and style.

Oh Willy… trailer from Emma de Swaef on Vimeo.
As a lover of stop-motion and Claymation techniques in creating animation, this animation was automatically up my street. I, as well as every member of the audience, loved the surreal and hilarious twists and turns in this remarkably hand crafted, needle thread, animation. I would have expected that the textures used would have distracted too much from the narrative, however it made the story even more bizarre (but in a good way!)!

My Mother’s Coat (full version) from Moth on Vimeo.
In the British Films section, I was happy to see this video being featured, as I am a follower of this ladies work. Although slow in places, and the narrative wasn’t as strong as some, I really like the line drawing style used and the limited colour pallet.

John & Betty Trailer from Luke & Alex on Vimeo.
This was the last of the animations that caught my attention. As mentioned before, I am interested in this style of animation (primarily in set and prop design and making), so I was concentrating more on the actual composition and items made for the animation, rather than the narrative as such (however the storyline was hilarious!).
After seeing such a range of different styles of animation, it was interesting afterwards to discuss our personal favourites of the selection, and how our tastes all differed. We also talked about how we would improve each animation over a pint in the pub.
I thought it was going to be difficult to beat Anifest's 'Warm up day', even with the amazing line up, I was still buzzing from the Fridays jam packed day of beauty for my eyes to feast on. But no, Anifest really pulled it out the bag and delivered another inspiring and insightful day into the animation world.
Cassidy Curtis
The first talk of the day was by Cassidy Curtis, a supervising animator, currently working at DreamWorks. In his talk he covered stupid amounts of basic understanding and knowledge that all animators should know and understand. I found it so useful and insightful to be given such an in-depth and detailed talk about all the problems and processes he's been through working on films such as 'How To Train Your Dragon', 'Kung-Fu Panda' and the 'Madagascar' series. 

He discussed the use (or in some cases the discontinued use) of model sheets in the animation industry, and how many companies are now adopting a system where each animator is able to create realistic or exaggerated expressions and movements depending on their own personal style and preference. I think that this is an amazing concept, and was surprised by the amount of animation series’ that adopt this method, yet the characters still manage to be recognisable and distinctive.

Before this talk I had heard of smear frames, and was fascinated by the use of them by Laika when making Paranorman (as they used 2D principles and converted it into 3D modelling, and actually made each head with smear movement lines to exaggerate the movement even more!), but never fully understood their true potential. He described it as ‘live motion blur, but better’ as the movement can be controlled better and looks more realistic (which is a bizarre though as motion blur is used in live film footage!). 

He also spent a long time talking about the process of character development, which I found particularly useful. He showed some great examples of how characters can be improved by just straightening the lines used or exaggerating the curves (but always having straight against curved), which allows your eyes to follow these shapes up towards the main focus of the characters body, the head. By using dynamic shapes, with plenty of contrast in line, it allows the character to have it's own identity, but more importantly an interesting silhouette. Curtis couldn't stress the importance of a silhouette enough, and how the use negative space really effects us subconsciously to either like or dislike a character. 

He also briefly mentioned two of his major influences in animation.
The first was Mary Blaire, who was an animator in the 50's, and created such beautiful concept work for some of Walt Disney's most accredited films, 'Cinderella', 'Peter Pan' and 'Alice in Wonderland.' I had heard of her briefly before somewhere somehow, but never really looked into her work much, but by gosh, since he has mentioned it I can now fully appreciate how truly influential she must be to so many concept artists and animators. For her work visit here:

The second was an equally talented contemporary concept artist called Nico Marley, who has worked on many of Dreamworks feature films amongst others. He has a very distinctive drawing style, and adopts many of the principles of expression and character development which Curtis strongly believes in. When researching more into his practise, I couldn't seem to find his own personal website, however he does have a 'fan' blog, where many of his greatest pieces of work are on display.

As he works making computer generated 3D characters, it wasn't 100% useful to hear about his process of animation, but I certainly gained a greater insight into how the animation process works. I especially learnt the most about how he rigs these characters, and was (naively) surprised to find that the basic principles of squash and stretch are built into the rig of the characters, to give a more lifelike and realistic performance. 

He also made sure that we all realised how difficult it is to create such a smooth and stylised piece of work, as we were all beginning to think that this animation lark looks pretty simple. But he managed to push us all back to earth by showing the horrific and equally hilarious website  where it shows how awful some peoples attempts to reach the same level of excellence has just erm...failed!


...or the makers of Walace and Gromit to most of the general public. Rather than having a talk with just one member of that company, Anifest managed to get two of the Aardman team to come along, which meant double the knowledge and double the fun! 

(This is starting to become a stupidly long post so I'll finish it off with bullet points!)

now using rapid prototyping and 3D printing -there are loads of variants to 3D printing where it can even be painted
silocan rubber body
foam latex clothes with armatures in, so they are movable
dope sheet which is broken down into sounds
2/3 seconds filmed a day, which works out at around 75 frames
stop motion pro
LAV- Live Action Video - mock up video of actors pretending to do the movements

Double Negative

John Carter of Mars
z brush modelling
don't always have the animals react to speech, showing it understanding is not always a good thing -leave a gap for people to look into
animation can look fake if the neck isn't animated as well as the face
always deliver ON TIME and show the animation early
'All the boys ate a fish'- includes every facial shape when talking
showreel- grasp on principles, narrative and a spark. entertainment, have taste! Be funny. Keep it simple and do it well


It's about the story, not always the physics
when the wings are slightly transparent, they disappear in motion blur
reused the bugs life set in the Toy Story 2 beginning
In Ratatouille no parallel lines were used, making everything look aged and worn
added tiny burn marks on hands
inside of the bread!
Buzz, subtle differences between each film, added wear and tear to show ageing
incorporates physics when solving problems such as lighting
relevant work/material, brought something extra to it, extra spark

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