Monthly Archives: September 2012

Eventful Encounters


As some of you may know last week I volunteered for Bristol Animated Encounters Film Festival. Here is my account of everything that went on. Welcome to the world of encounters through the eyes of a volunteer!

Monday 17th and Tuesday the 18th

These were the two days that we started setting up for the festival. One of the best tasks in these first two days was going to pick up the Wallace and Gromit sets from the Aardman studios. To just be standing in the warehouse were all these sets were stored was a great honour and The sets that we later put up in the Arnolfini gallery looked amazing. They had an original model of letsby avenue ,a garden set with Gromit in his green house measuring a marrow from curse of the ware rabbit ,

2 monkeys in a cage and 2 skip dogs from the creature comfort series

and last of all my most favourite was the rocket from Wallace and Gromit’s first adventure “A Grand Day Out”.

Along side these magnificent sets was a Darren Walsh ( in association with scary cat studios) animating an episode of “Bob” live ( which was a continual event throughout the festival ) The technique he was using was effectively stop motion but the twist comes when you realize “Bob” is a human being pixilated ( directed to move as a puppet would be ) whilst wearing a mask which is replaced for each frame to create movements in the face , from expressions to lip sync. on top of that as I mentioned before he was doing this live – meaning whilst he was animating he had people walking through and watching him.

Wednesday 19th

This was the day it really felt like the festival had kicked off. I was mostly in the gallery watching the sets and the Darren Walsh live, as well as ushering several different screenings throughout the day – which involved taking people’s tickets and giving out voting forms ect After my shift I went into a screening called Aardman : from pigs to pirates and as the name suggests this involved a wide range of Aardmans short films from very early work right up to their most resent ” so you want to become a pirate” a short spin-off from their latest feature film pirates. I then went to s really superb event called Aardman in conversation which was an interview type set up with Peter Lord , David Sproxton and Nick park , They talked on a whole range of things from their early days of setting up the studio’s , their love of stop motion ( despite now having a digital aspect to the company ) They are still a stop motion Studio through and through and Wallace and Gromit will always be stop motion ( this I was very pleased to hear ! ) At then end of the talk I got to meet Nick park himself and share my gratitude for promising to never bring out a CGI Wallace and Gromit

Thursday 20th

Today I was volunteering all day up in the Dark studio at the Arnolfini. this was really great because I got to sit in on 3 fantastic classes. The First was getting it write , as you can probably guess this was all about writing scripts for animation , which was really interesting and quite useful. It involved a panel of writers from various different lines of work giving hints and tips of successful scriptwriting. The second workshop was a layout work shop called setting the scene led by Fraser MacLean. Fraser MacLean has had a lot of experience in industry including working at Disney and led a really energetic workshop as well as being really informative. The third workshop was by paul bush – an artist who experiments with film and in particular animation. Paul Bush has done some interesting films using all sorts of different techniques such as scratching into film and pixilation. His workshop was a interview , with some clips of his work and an open Q and A session at the end. I think Thursday was the day I learnt the most and picked up lots of helpful advice. After my shift I went to the screening of paranorman which was amazing ! It’s been really encouraging to see so many stop motion feature films in the past few years. Paranorman is a great horror movie that is suitable for children , I really like it when directors push the guide lines a bit when it comes to making Films some might say paranorman has taken it too far and is too scary for children but as co director sam fell said in the Q and A session after the screening is that it’s ok for children to be a bit scared ( a few of the characters even mention in the film “it’s ok to be afraid”) of what they are seeing on screen as long as they see it resolved in the end. I totally agree with this and think being afraid is part of not only growing up but of life in general and if you can learn to handle fear from a young age that it gives you a good advantage in life.

Friday 21st

This was my day off from volunteering so I decided to make the most of the festival and my delegate pass. I went to a screening called on the lighter side which had lots of professional short films such as “The Gruffalo’s child” and Aardmans “so you want to be a pirate” along side some graduate/ new film makers. All the entries were outstanding and I found it really hard to vote for just one. In the end I voted for a sweet animation called “much better now” about a forgotten bookmark that finds a whole world of fun in the book he’s been stuck in. At lunch time I went over to the M shed to see the Aardman’s Pirate ship which is on display there – this isn’t really part of encounters as such but is still really awesome and very much animated related – if you’re in Bristol and  you get a chance definitely go and see it , it’s literally just inside the main entrance of the M shed and is well worth a visit.

Seeing the big pirate ship was a good lead into the afternoons activity , a workshop on Rapid prototyping led by aardmans top model maker Jim Parkyn.

It was an amazing workshop where Jim explained how for pirates all of the lip sync was animated in maya and then all the different mouth shapes are printed on a 3d printer which not only gives you a 3d model of the correct shape but can also colour and add detail too which is when we were introduced to the many mouths of the Pirate captain ( there are actually hundreds more as there were several different pirate captain puppets all with their own set of mouth shapes )

we also got to meet Pirate captain and Charles Darwin ( not a sentence you can say every day ! ) as well as some of Aardmans farmyard friends 🙂

Saturday 22nd

This unfortunately was my last day volunteering and my last day at the festival but by no means any less interesting than the other days. I started off in the Gallery and Ushering and got to sit in on a screening called the children’s jury which was put together for children with the films being selected by children. There was a lot of nice sweet films and I got to see “much better now” again and I was no less impressed for seeing it the second time. For the afternoon I was ushering again but at a very unique venue. This time it was a 1967 vintage mobile cinema which was bought about 8 years by a lovely couple called Ollie and Emma , who did it up and now travel round everywhere with it showing all sorts of interesting and non mainstream films.

And that folks is my tale of the animated encounters festival ! or should  I say the high lights! there were lots and lots of fantastic moments and good times meeting new people and catching up with old friends , and lots that I also didn’t get to see but these have been my best bits !


update for the The summer of . . . . . .


So I last left you with a picture of my small but perfectly blacked out studio through out the summer I have replaced the british rain for the warm lights of the studio and 2 blown bulbs later here is what I’ve got to show for it.

First there were the tests to edit from before the blackout fabric went up they can be found on my vimeo profile  on this link but please be pre warned of the roughness and poor lighting as they were all shot under your average household bulb with natural light also interfearing with the filming. plus as I am still saving up for dragonframe ( a very good stop motion animation software but also very expensive) so I’ve kind of been animating blind as in not being hooked up to a computor and then importing all my frames manually to a very basic video editing programe to create the finished animation tests , so yes all quite rough at the moment!

Whilst waiting for my funds to appear I have been re-jigging my puppets to make them perform better, I took apart the Llama aka the fire cracker. From my tests I learnt that some larger joints I used d=for the llama hip/leg joint’s wern’t quite working as they should so the llama is now going to have less moveable joints than the actual bone strucure of a llama because although they look like they could move ( on the real llama ) they either don’t or they don’t appear to in the Llama walk cycle – meaning I basically gave my llama to many joints which just got in the way while animating so I’m going to replace them with still joints.

see here this picture of the new structure of the llama’s legs and also a very sad looking Llama waiting for his armature !

so whilst waiting for funds and various parts to arrive, I have started to do some research and character development for a new project based on a fairy tale esk senario the main feature being a wolf displaying anthropomorphic changes. I took lots of reference both from actual wolves and already existing animated wolfs see my research board on pinterest after the research I started sketching trying to develop a wolf character which I am still working on – I want a few distinct features but he doesn’t need to be anything  much more specail than your average wolf – just a little bit of something to give him a bit of an edge. Below are some of my early research sketches followed some early but by no means finished character designs.

The image above, is of the early stages of character designs- its sort of along the right lines I’m going for but I think he needs to be 1) less pokemon like (something just says pokemon to me ) 2) a bit more rough and 3) a little more sinister looking. With all that in mind plus the things I learnt from my research I have started doing a sculpt as I find sculpting a really useful way of developing characters mostly because its easier to chop and change bits as you go but also I find you can get more of an idea of a character whilst building and sculpting it because you create it in a physical sense. I have currently got upto building a generic wolf body to work from as seen below.

This is a really exciting new project which is going to follow on really nicely from Back from the Brink and who knows maybe they will be able to tour the festivals together as brother and sister ( bit wishful thinking there…)

Talking of festivals

I’m very lucky and excited to be working for Bristol Animated Encounters again this year last year was so inspiring and a great experience to meet some top people , see some great films and generally get to see both sides of the scene in an animation festival. This year looks like it’s going to be great with talks and workshops from aardman , Q and A session with the producer of paranorman and not to mention seeing great new films made by a variety of different people from student/graduates to big studio productions. The festival runs all next week and looks action packed and I am planning on doing a blog entry at the end of next week of all the weird and wonderful things you experience as a volunteer at an animated film festival – so no doubt there shall be lots to tell!

Until then get your self down there to see what all the fuss is about !