Group discussion notes

As this project drew on past the stage of of pitch and planning, it was imminent I and most of the other students needed to reflect on what went well and what hadn't so far. Looking forward in to this Final Major Project, it was essential to begin to plan how and when we would work in order to maintain an efficiency and quality throughout the project. To help us, we had a group meeting to discuss ways we could help organise ourselves and make the most out of this project.

The first point made was work with a schedule. I think this couldn't be stressed enough to someone like myself, as time management is always something that drags me back an hinders the potential of my projects. to react to this advice, I invested in a timetable, where I have segmented areas of the project and given myself inividiual deadlines for these sections. I've planned the deadlines to work chronologically, meaning with my project being an animation, I will firstly design characters, then devise a plot, settings and storyboards before animating. Having completed an animation project before, although successful, the workload seemed astronimical, seeing as I crammed it all in to the final week. With this in mind and an obvious need to improve the overall quality of my work I have planned to give myself 3 months of time to animate solely. I also have other projects running concurrently, so it is important that I plan my time around applying my abilities and efforts equally to both. 

Another interesting piece of advice from the lecture was to constantly think about the marketability of the project. Thinking about how my animtion would appeal to a certain audience and how I could adhere to it would be essential in creating a strong proffesional end product. To achieve this I may take some surveys/research to help me to uncover what the audience would like.

It was stressed that this Final Major Project has a research section. Recording and reflecting on every step of my development is something I believe I do well towards research but actually getting out and noting down inspirations and ideas is something I can definitley improve on. As a result of this tip I plan to constantly note and cite sources of information and inspiration as this project draws on with the intentions of gaining alot of inspiration and an impressive bibliography.

Workshops will be available to us for additonal help in skills so this was good to note. Animation requires alot of technical knowledge and patience-  which I regularly lose. So I believe these tutorials or workshops will be very beneficial to me in helping to steady my practice. Fumio mentioned we should all aim for at least 3 hours of tutor time a week. As they are all a resource to us he felt we didn't use enough which I think is right. Sometimes down to working to the last minute on another project, projects and tutor time can be neglected, I am very guilty of this, so I think managing time correctly and making space for these tutor talks would be very beneficial to me and my project as it will be a very difficult challenge.

And finally, standards must improve. The pitch and planning aspect of the FMP took alot of stress and hardwork but that is nothing compared to how the actual FMP will be. The key is in the words, Final and Major and the importance is easy to see. As students this is our last chance to really showcase our abilities so I plan to take full advantage of this. Time management will be key for myself but I feel very enthusiastic after this meeting to carry out all these tips and hopefully my project will see the results. 

Inspirational Artist - Geoff Coates

Through many tedious hours of character development I felt my progress was beginning to stint. At this point I realised I needed to find a new source of stylistic inspiration, which came through a cartoonist I found via social media, Geoff Coates.  
Geoff Coates is an art director and illustrator from Vancouver, Canada. I discovered his work through Instagram, where I was inspired by his strong cartoon work!
Coates' work grabbed my attention with his use of bold linework. the linework varies in density and thickness, it is not uniform. I think this adds a certain hand-drawn effect. I think the hand-drawn effect of the work helps to add relatability with the characters.

The pressure varied line is also very dynamic. The tapering of the line follows the stroke of Coates brush which creates an energy to the line. I think this definitely helps the characters to appear much more 'alive'.

The curves and angles in the characters work very well I think. Areas I think work particularly well are the hands and arms of the characters, in 
particularly with the zombies. The sharp angles are used very effectively to display their characteristics of being vicious and 'undead'. The fingers of the characters are also very cartoon-esque, they are basic sasauage shapes with a vague description a nail using a basic shape. They are very simple and stylistic - they remind me alot of many of the cartoons I used to watch when I was younger, In partiuclar, 'Ed, Edd and Eddy' a Cartoon Network aired programme from the 90's to early 00's:
(left) 'Ed, Edd and Eddy' - I noticed some particular stylistic similarities in this show with Coates' characters in particular their bold descriptive linework, dynamic postures and stylistically simple hands and fingers.
​Through his Instagram account,  I discovered Coates' Youtube channel which featured some speedart demonstrations of how he creates his characters with software tips such as photoshop brush recommendations as well as some drawing tutorials. I thought it would be a worthy excercise to follow some of his tutorials as a quick excercise to try and gain a better understanding of how to show dynamism and certain stylistics in characters which i could apply to my own characters in my Fish Terry project.

The first tutorial I followed focused on the concept of a 'line of action'. The line of action describes the implied line of the characters posture. Cartoon characters use very over-emphasised postures for dramatic effect, the line of action describes the basic direction of their core posture and it's emotional implication.
I followed his basic explanation of line of action postures creating some basic sketches of stickmen. I then followed this on by copying the characters he drew as he explained in further detail the effects of the line of action as the charcters grew more complex
As I started to add facial expressions and more detail to body parts it was clearer to see the emotional effects the line of action/posture had on the character:
​I started to focus more on line quality as I drew these more refined drawings, I paid attention to using curves and dramatic angles similarly to Coates' also, which I think definitely adds an emotive effect to the characters. The dramatic and dynamic shapes defnitely works well to express movement also, the characters appear much more active. Over-morphed and stretched areas also work well to show motion.

Coincedentally, the characters I drew from the tutorial are a similar shape to my main character, Terry, which can only be a good reference for me when aiming to show dynamism in my movement further on in my development and animation.
I also followed some tutorials from Coates on how he draws eyes and all of the basic emotions that can be percieved through eyes:
I think it's fairly incredible the way our minds can interpret these basic abstracted views of emotions through these basic cartoon representations of eyes, simple lines representing eyelids, cheeks and eyebrows are pivotal in protraying these emotions and really aid a character's overall portrayal of a certain emotion.
i also looked, mainly out of curiosity at Coates' hand drawing tutorial. I was very interested in the signature stylistic cartoon take on hands. I had learned through previous research into animation, mainly in the realms of Disney that often in cartoons hands would only use 4 fingers as characters were 'streamlined' of any unnecessary features for the ease of the animator - however, this became a stylistic staple across alot of animation and cartoon.

The hands use a basic cube structure to describe rough proportions. these guides are then rounded to a degree, but often left close to squared and rigid. Fingers are often drawn very differently across different artists, they can often be described as more squared, stubby, rounded or "rabbit-eared". The fingers often use a expressive line, showing calligraphic qualities to express dynamism. Finger nails are sometimes added but when they are they are only ever represented through a basic squared shape.
After studying the work of Coates and his techniques I decided to create some quick studies applying his effects to my main character, Terry. I wanted to take his ability to represent dramatic emotions to my character I felt was quite dull and boring. I used dramatic sweeping expressive lines to portray potential movement, curve and angular contrasts for a more dramatic shape as well as a basic line of action to show a strong emotive posture.
I think this style is perhaps too dramatic for the style of animation I'm after and the overall feel I want my animation to create but this was defnitely a good excercise to follow, It has helped me get to grips with the movement capabilities and limitations of my character, which is always good to be experienced in coming in to animating as well as being a good source of reference.

i also decided to create some basic GIF images exploring the stylistic credentials of Coates within my character Terry further:
I think it's clear to see a lot of expression and dramatic movement within this VERY basic 3-frame GIF animation, although its a very quick low-quality drawing I think the overall effects of Coates' creative ideas shine through.

It's great to see Terry coming to life... Perhaps this is a bit too dramatic though.

Group Discussion

Time passes by very quickly it seems whilst trying to work on several large projects at once and before I knew it was time for another group discussion and how the project was going for us. 

This session was a lot more relaxed, I felt. Having self assessed how our pitch and plan module went the other week, it was now time to reflect and decide how we could retain motivation and organisation towards our FMP. One of the most notable things I took from the lecture was advice on or own work ethics. Completing such huge, important projects brings about a lot of stress so it's important for us to take down time and relax when we arent working hard. Finding the balance between thes two things is something we discussed in depth and it was a very positive and helpful insight. 

Like the other week, we spoke about structuring our work and creating a plan. I don't think this can be emphasised enough as any success we can achieve will not be possible without planning so this repetition was key. 

Basic and Essential Animation Sequences

Past creating some very basic two frame GIF animations from quick sketches, through recommendation of my tutor and some new found inspiration of my own I decided to create a few basic animation loops of some of the essential movements I would need to learn for my animation. After reintroducing myself to 'Adobe Animate CC' my chosen software, after nearly a year without use I allowed myself plenty of time as I was aware it wasn't going to be as easily rememberable as riding a bike! As I practiced, I regained confidence and created a few animations focusing on my main character only at this stage, as I wanted to try to master the way I would animate with one character before confusing myself working with multiple characters and shapes. 
I think my reintroduction in to animation software clearly frustrate me and as such my initial work was very rushed, shoddy and I wasn't developing in a chronological order. As such my first idea was to draw my character, Terry, doing a funny dance. I wanted to include a 'motion blur/stretch' frame, which I think is perhaps the only part of this small sequence I feel went well! Overall this first attempt brought about more frustration than resolutions but really helped to remind me on how I should always plan and work with a more simple concept at a time.
I think it's imeddiately clear the glaring issues with this sequence... I aimed to show a dramatic angle of Terry as well by altering the shape of his main body, manipulating the tip to be very small and the bottom to be larger and wider to try and create perspective. I think this could work but was rushed in excecution here and it is very obviously more of a stepping stone in early development. I also didnt finish animating the back arm of this small sequence as I felt as though at this point I was wasting time. The legs in particlar I think are the biggest issue, they flail around in a very strange manner but at this stage my frustrations grew too strong and I gave up. I think it was beneficial for me to step back at this stage and evaluate how the process went and although this sequence is a bit of a hilarious monstrosity there's positive aspects I can take from it, to help me in further development.

Walk and Run Cycle

Following on from the previous animation attempt I seeked some help to create a more fluent looking animation. This was where via Youtube I discovered a tutorial from a user named, 'Alan Becker Tutorials' ( Youtube is a very good resource I have found for software, as it provides a step by step narrated style that is easy to follow and mimic yourself, with the ability to pause and catch up freely. The tutorial I watched described the walk and run sequence. The sequence in basic is made up of just two frames: 'contact' and 'passing' named that way after the contact the foot makes with the ground and the way the one legs passes the other. 
However, these two frames alone create a very blocky and rigid sequence so 'inbetween' frames are added to make the action much smoother. The character posture in these frames can be made to look stretched or shortened, this gives a bounce effect. This stretch and pull of the character  is symbolic of a lot of cartoons and adds a lot of personality and humour to the sequence. In simpler terms, the inbetweens in this walk sequence are known as the up and down, the down being added after contact an the up after passing. This mimics real life walk structures but the effect can be emphasised for humorous effect. 
Rough sketch example of walk cycle in 4 basic frames: Contact, Down, Passing, Up
Front view of walk cycle works simiarly but stronger emphasis on 'Up' and 'Down' stage as they are more visible.
Applying these techniques to my own character I found challenging as his form is not as simple as a basic human structure. However using the software I simply duplicated the torso and face of my character, Terry, and manipulated it with the shape manipulation tool to create a pull and stretch effect - in a more proffesional stage I would pay much more attention to this stretch and pull but given this was only early development I felt I only needed to gain a basic idea.  I used a frame rate of about 8 frames per second for the walk cycle as I felt this showed a reasonable level of speed without being so slow there was a greater need for more 'inbetweens'. The slower the scene, the more inbetweens will be needed in orer to retain fluency. 
At this stage, I avoided using colours to focus solely on gaining a good range of motion and not getting frustrated with those areas of the software, which was very much one of my main gripes. Analysing this sequence positively, I think it works to covey motion. I like the torso manipulation and bounce it has given the character. I feel when comparing it to one of my eariler very basic two frame sketch GIFs it is much superior - which you would hope for. It took me around 1 and a half hours to construct this 4 frame animation but that was almost entirely down to software confusion so I am confient I can trim some of that time down as I grow in experience. At an early stage I am happy with my progress. 

Looking at the loop more conrstructively, there are some areas I feel definitely need altering and improving. I like the swing of the arms as I feel it looks very purposeful but this wasn't strictly inentional and it would perhaps be better suited to a run cycle and should be much more relaxed. It would definitely benfit from being slowed. The loop is already running at a lower frame rate than I would like for my animation, however the character is still moving much too fast so its clear that more inbetweens should be added. The frame rate it is currently at makes it look reasonably jumpy and rigid as well which when looked at for too long actually hurts my eyes, so this definitely needs to be altered. 
Following on from the walk sequence which actually looked more like a power walk, I decided to develop a run cycle from it. In order to achieve the look of a run I felt the sequence needed more bounce and a more extreme range of motion. Normally, I think the number of frames would actually be decreased, but as I felt my walk scene already had too little I just added one additional frame to it. The frame I added was a long leg spread with no feet touching the floor, which is the difference between a run and a walk.  
Again, reflecting positively first on the loop I think the addition of the airbourne frame works well to show the motion of running. the increasing of the frame rate also makes it look much more fluent as well as being more reflecting of the speed the character is travelling at. I also added Terry's tie, a feature i neglected from the walk cycle. I did so because I felt by having it looking as tho it is blowing in the wind would indicate speed and I think this has worked well.

However, on a more constructive note I think although more fluent than the walk cycle, this loop would still benefit from more inbetweens to smoothen it out visually as it is still quite hard on the eyes and I don't feel the character needs to appear to be running quite this fast. As with the walk cycle I was only focusing on the basic movement and not details but I feel some diversity in the range of motion as well might also work better. Although, that being said, should Terry ever need to run this fast in the animation the liklihood is the scene would also be very fast so details might not be so important, but it would be good to be able to convey more personality in his run and walk styles. Something else to add was I actually altered the position of terrys pupil to appear as tho he has a worried expression rather than a calm look like in the walk cycle, I think this works but much more is needed to convey a truer perception of personality.
Finally, I decided to try a face-on run cycle using the same methods as before except I planned to add a few more complex elements through some seperate internal symbols that would animate on their own. I wanted to add the suggestion of sound and also try to show Terry running toward to camera. I wanted him to look like he was shouting "RUN!" as through he was running away from something terrifying. I noticed that with a face on run style the stretch and pull/ squashing should be much more emphasised than the side-on view as otherwise it dosen't look right. I created this effect with the manipulation tools as well as drawing the frames with the squash effect in mind. 

I animated each section of Terry in seperate layers:

  • Main Body
  • Legs and Arms
  • Eyes
  • Mouth

By doing this I had greater control. I created a very basic foward running style with a bounce first the combined all the layers into a symbol, minus the eyes and mouth which I wanted to animate seperatley. I used to scale tool to start the symbol small and gradually grow it in time with the steps of the run cycle. I used a 4 frame animation for the cycle. I also added a motion to the tie, to make it swing and curve in line with the movement of the character. I tried to add some perspective to make the character look as though he is leaning forward slightly, which should help to indicate how fast he is running.

I animated the mouth by turning it in to a symbol and creating 4 frames within it. Knowing I wanted Terry to say the word 'run' I knew I needed to draw the mouth in the position of 'R' 'U' and 'N' as well as a flat mouth. I cycled through these frames as I saw fit, whilst manipulating them to add effect, particularly on the 'U' as I felt this gave the effect of a prolonged dramatic scream.

The eyes I was going to animate as well but unfortunatley my computer decided that the files could not be saved and at this stage I am not sure what this means for the future of my project on my computer using the programme so this is defnitely something I will need to investigate further.

Both symbols, the mouth and eyes I scaled in time with the rest of the body as it ran toward the camera.
The technical issues surrounding the saving of this piece meant I needed to finish it fast just in case of a system crash. Luckily I could save the loop in GIF format but this meant it was now ineditable. There are some areas where I feel it could be improved, I think the drawing of the arms and legs could have been of higher quality but I think the animation is actually more fluent in motion than the last two. Sadly, technical issues limited me but I felt the addition of the animated mouth really added personality and is definitely a step towards creating a much better all round animation. I also really like this dynamic camera angle, its much more interesting and Iike especially the way it is as though he runs in to you. considering this was only a 2 hour practice piece I think I am definitely improving through these development stages and my character movements are beginning to look much more proffesional.

Group Discussion notes

Having accidentally invited myself to an earlier group, we had a small discussion with Fumio about productivity and efficiency. The main point of which to take from the talk being wherever it is we are researching or getting inspiration keep a list of names of all the artists who have inspired us. Doing so will help us to write about them in our blogs but also refer back to them later. 

More Basic Animation Loops

I created another animation loop of a basic essential movement - a jump This time I tried to use a lot more frames to try and keep the movement fluid and slower whilst retaining a faster frame rate (20 fps) I tried to include some more advanced techniques I had picked up from my research.
I think it's immediatley obvious this sequence didn't go particularly well and is actually far less fluid and proffesional than the last but I think soe complecancy seeped in and looking positively at it, there are some elements I think went well.
I used the manipulation tools to create a stretch on the arm and try to show the apperance of speed .
I also added a motion sweep. Something I felt was successful in my first animation attempt. I feel it worked well and also was a great way to illustrate movements that I thought would have been hard to show. Stylistically I think it worked well, as well as saving me time, which is always a plus.
On reflection, I think this sequence was dissapointing in terms of quality but I think that was to be expected with the addition of mutliple new techniques. I completed it within an hour and a half and considering there was twice as many frames as the last I feel I am improving in my time keeping and productivity but I defnitley became complacent in parts and that's why the quality suffered. I'm pleased I managed to include these techniques though and am sure that this sequence will only help my development.