Sunday, 30 May 2010

Production Report

For this project, I worked along side Jake Jones and Rozi Barnes, our final idea for the formation title sequence is very much based on the initial ideas from the original brainstorming session with other students and the pitch we gave that day. The three of us wanted to work in the cut-out style that we had pitched to Denzil, so we decided to work together as a group to continue with the idea, we emailed the student we worked with from Penwith College though he never got back to us. We took the strong visual elements and ideas we had formed in the quick pitching session, refined them and then added new ones that were more successful.
None of us had any preference of who would be director or producer, we only assigned these roles (by pulling names out of a bag), because Andy preferred us to. Despite having these roles (Rozi - director, Jake – producer), we worked as equals, one asking the other two for opinions or advice on changes and new ideas as our ideas and techniques evolved throughout production. Jake created a blog ( that would enable us all to upload project updates and I created a file sharing account on that enabled us to upload symbols and files we’d need that could be accessed on any computer over the internet, it also meant that we could share files that were to big to send over email.
We knew the concept of the style we all wanted to work with, but it wasn’t until Rozi, who had a really strong mental image of what the finished style should look like, had completed the storyboard that we found a style we could all work to. We chose literal cut-out shapes that had a distinct look, but were simple enough in construction that the three of us could work on them separately and still create components that worked when put together. Jake and I used the storyboard images to create the animatic and some of the cut-outs from the storyboard were used in the final animation. I created an animatic of a fly, used to test the wing and leg movements in Flash, which I ended up using as a template for the final piece.

The animatic was used as a planning tool for the actual animation, Jake and I spent a morning editing each section to the length we wanted it to be in the final version. I then used this second version of the animatic as a template to divide the animation into workable sections, then figure out the exact number of frames each should be, (doing more maths than I had done in a long time during the process). I then drew up a table with each section and the frame rates so that the group could follow it. The workload was divided between all of us, mainly by personal preference (Rozi had said from the beginning that she had a strong idea of what she wanted the lab to look like, Jake was more keen to develop his ideas for the smoke and flyman – which turned into a flywoman for the real thing – so they worked on the desired sections), but also by workload: I worked on more scenes, because they were shorter and less complicated than the scenes the others did.

In theory, creating the table meant that we could all work separately, including at home, but the animation would still fit together as we were all working from the same time scale. In practice, we differed from it slightly: the beginning section had to be longer to read the word ‘formation’ and look the correct speed; other, unsuccessful, scenes were edited or removed to compensate for this, such as the countryside scene – which was supposed to be 80 frames long – which was removed as we weren’t happy with the final result. This lead to me extending the exterior window scene which came beforehand, this meant the narrative still worked and the animation flowed better.

(BELOW is the edited exterior window sequence. To begin with the shot was static, just the window and hint of buildings, it was edited so that the camera panned slightly to the right, revealing more buildings and trees, hinting the area is of human occupation, while the flies flew left.)

Working on the scenes as separate files meant that things would be easier to go back and edit if needed, which was beneficial as the longer start meant that we needed to go back to cut unnecessary frames and shorten overly long sequences. In addition, it was – again in theory – supposed to ease the strain for the computer of working on a long animated sequence. But in reality Flash still crashed or froze frequently: I kept a tally whilst working on this project (which I kept updated on my blog), the grand total came to 26, After Effects faired no better, failing 8 times within the first four hours of piecing the final animation together. I think this is partly because of the large aspect ratio we were asked to work at (1920 x 1080), which meant that Flash couldn’t handle the large textured background we wanted in each shot and lots of symbols had to be resized in Photoshop before they could be brought into Flash without it throwing its toys out of the pram.
One of the largest problems we came across was when it came for us to export the finished files we had worked on in Flash as videos to edit together. Due to the large stage size, picture size and number of different layers for each scene (including a separate layer for every fly, which got a bit manic when there was around seven different ones, each with their own individual Motion Tween, flying around the screen at once) it became a bit of a nightmare. The exported videos became ridiculously jerky so that the action would jump around statically every few seconds rather than flow smoothly like it was supposed to. To evade this problem, we exported each scene as a sequence of .PNG files, (the choice to use these rather than another image format was due to the fact that the .PNG can export an Alpha Channel, which we needed to allow us to add the textured background Flash had hated). This then allowed us to composite all of the scenes together in After Effects, with the background and later sound. However, the large aspect ratio gave us problems in exporting the final animation from After Effects as well. Denzil had asked for the final file to be rendered as an Uncompressed Quicktime file, which came to a massive 1.8GB so the computer could not handle playing anything after the first few jerky five seconds. I then tried various different forms of render outputs, a smaller mp4 (standing at a much more respectable and reasonable 64MB) played the animation in its entirety, but at about half the speed. After sending a slightly panicked email to Denzil asking his advice and acceptance of a different size – he suggested using either an MP4 (which I had tried) or an MP2. The Mpeg2 worked and played at the correct speed, however when we added the sound clip, a piece of copyright free music that Rozi had found, it rendered the two out as separate files. We were able to resolve the problem, by exporting the finished animation and sound together, as a HD video for Windows file, which is the one I have uploaded to Moodle, my blog and to YouTube for Denzil and others to view.

Left: Original .PNG file. Right: Still from the final animation after compositing separate elements with alpha channels together on After Effects.

Finished Formation!

Finally, after a grand total of 26 crashes in Flash and 8 in After Effects, here is the finished Title Sequence:

(you need to get on to YouTube and watch in HD - yay!)

I'm also going to upload my production report, but as it's over 1000 words, I'll do it in another blog post so you can skip the boring bit and just watch the video!

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

[Experi]mental Sketchbook [4]

This week's sketchy fun (In another awesome MONTAGE of favourites). Set up a few objects in a circle spin a pencil, draw the object the pencil points to... This was suprisingly fun (and I cheated a bit, I drew what I wanted).

Formation is virtually finished, just have to piece it together tomorrow!

Monday, 24 May 2010

[Experi]mental Sketchbook [3]

Last week's sketchy fun... Creating a picture from squiggles. It was quite fun, but sometimes really hard to try and think of something to turn such an abstract line into something else. Here are my favourites (arranged into a pretty montage for yooou):

Sunday, 23 May 2010

I've been a busy bee, or should i say, FLY?

Lots of pretty videos to watch... Posted in chronological order (well, the bits of the animation I've been working on anyway). Pretty excited to get it wrapped up soon. Should be looking good :) I've just got one more scene left to do, which I can hopefully complete by tomorrow, then we'll be off to export them with an alpha channel and have a play around in After Effects. EEP.
With the last video, I wanted there to be flying flies (confused yet?) like the ones in the second video, along with the black dotty ones, but as you can guess: Flash crashed. Epically. And it rendered out crazily jerky. So the freeze/crash count stands at an impressive 16 times. (10 from just one morning, what an efficent service).

Oh, and for some reason, because YouTube likes to mess with me, the quality is crazily bad, which makes no sense because when it's on my computer, or on Facebook video it works fine. Stoooopid.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Freeze/Crash Count... 4

I finished the fly symbol last night, I wasn't happy with the legs I'd drawn on the other one, they looked a bit stiff considering they'd be blowing about in the wind as it flew. He has the anatomically correct six legs now! Each leg is on a separate layer and each individual leg is made up of nine different frames that loop with the wings.

I'm currently working on the lab escape scenes, I've completed the backgrounds, click for a larger preview...
The Inner Lab:

aaaand, the World outside the Lab:

I'm now off to animate the fly in these scenes :)

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Freeze Count...

Stands at 3.

Not bad, considering I started animating today. Why do scanners make images so huge? We're working to 1920 x 1080 and that's pretty huge in itself, but the scans are double that. Maybe more. Crazy.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Planning... because it's better to plan a little bit late than not at all.

Being the neurotic I am, and in preparation for the Formation project, I sat down this morning with the help of (a not very enthused) Jake to work out the exact length for every part of the Animation. Besides my neurosis about needing to know exactly how long everything is, I have some good reasons for doing so...
...Flash is notorious for crashing (Jake suggested we keep a tally going which sounds like a good idea: it currently stands at 1), so hopefully by making the animation in separate files will ease the strain, and also make it easier to edit any mistakes... We can each work on our bits of the project separately (from the comfort of our own homes!) knowing that when we come to edit the animation together, it'll (hopefully) be the correct length and bits won't overrun. It's also been easier to share the workload, so that we all have an even ammount of things to be getting on with.

We decided that we're going to edit the final scenes together using After Effects, this is partly because it'll be easier than doing so in Flash, but also because we want to add a paper texture to the background. As the animation's stlye is paper cut-out (and most of the symbols literally are scanned in pieces of coloured paper...), a plain white background would be boring and plain lazy on our part. Flash hates having the paper texture in the background (we're having to produce the animation at 1920 x 1080, so it's pretty large), but having it move makes it crash (hence the total standing at 1 from when we tried this morning...), but AE seems to like it, and if we export all of the scenes from Flash with an Aplha Channel (as we accidently did with an old version of the Animatic which we had a test play with... see below...) then it'll (metaphorically speaking) be a piece of cake. Hopefully.

Annnd I forgot to post this, an update of the (as yet still unfinished) fly symbol, now with FOUR legs:

(P.S. Congratulations to my tutor Andy who's just had a baby boy!)

Sunday, 16 May 2010

[Experi]mental Sketchbook [2]

An update from last week's sketchbook, I've done some more Animal Firm things this week but don't have the files with me at the moment, so you'll have to wait patiently for another blog update...

Lasat week's sketchy game (working with Jake) was to draw song titles... I really enjoyed it and filled a small sketchbook with just over 30 drawings... not bad, and it saved me from five hours of train travel boredom last weekend. Anyway, here are 8 of my favourites :)

clickee clickee for a massive preview...

Friday, 7 May 2010

Formation Animatic

The completed Animatic for the Formation project:

We're updating the formation blog pretty often, not everything is going to post everything here, so you might want to check it out.

It's a good thing the Animatic is completed, as in two hours time I'll be heading home to celebrate my (not-so) little brother's 18th birthday. (Don't worry, I'm taking my sketchbooks to hopefully abate my boredom on the trains...) Will be back ready on sunday to start the real animation on monday :)

Monday, 3 May 2010


This week I've gotten on a lot better with Kathy's project (largely due to Nigel & Olly coming up with a good idea to base this weeks drawing around). I've worked on it all over the weekend (also been working on some Animal Firm) so that I can spend this week cracking on with the Animatic I've just started for the "Formation" project, which we now have a blog for.

Anyway, sketchbook project this week, we drew an object beginning with the first letters of the alphabet.