Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Contextual Studies: Death of The Author

The Death of The Author is an essay written by Roland Barthes in 1967 stating that the author and writing must be seperated when reading and not looking into the influences that the author has had upon the final piece...

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Visual Language Research: Mike Mignola

Recently I've been looking at artistic styles to try draw influence from to help represent my characters to help given an extra but of impact when it comes to the visuals. Whilst searching through my own collection of art books, graphic novels and comics and cam across American comic artist Mike Mignola's work, most famous for creating the character Hellboy what artracted me more was his art style. As soon as I looked at it I was immediately enthusiastic and about trying to replicate his style and see what effects it could bring to my imperfect character designs.

An example of Mignola's Work.

What really drew me towards his work when looking for inspiration was the heavy use of black to assist in establishing form and how figures get merged with the shadows only highlighting minor details. There is also something quite haunting found in his imagery which adds a sense of dread, especially when more black is used. it was this sensation of dread I wanted to add to my Shark Warrior character to add a little fear to the design. Even when Mignola's Work is coloured it can usually have an impacting effect in that things can look very dark yet calm, or haunting. Other times it can look warm and friendly creating a good contrast allows for the style to be very flexible.

(more of Mingnola's work)

Another key interest was that when thing were coloured in blues and greys it really gave the feeling of looking at something underwater, something cold with little light and even with a bit of mystery to it's actual form. Along with the heavy use of shading it's something that I'm looking forward to try myself and develop it into something a little more suited for myself and unique looking. Over my development period I'm going to be looking at more of Mignola's Work and try draw influence from it's dark visuals and cold colours as I feel it could really give my character design and extra kick.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Animation Final: Final Product & Evaluation

Finally the animation is finished, whilst it is not perfect I'm quite proud of what I have achieved as along the way of learning how to animate in Maya I've found it quite difficult but I'm glad I have stuck it through as not only have I learned how to animate but I have also learned a little about myself.

(The Final Animation)

When I first started this brief there was a lot of information to take in about character design as well as the 12 main principles of animation, once that was over I was introduced to the computer program Pencil which was a digital version of what traditional animators do. I found this to be very exciting as I found it quite easy to get used to controlling the pen and tablet to create images on screen although I did find the ability to "ease in and ease out" difficult to grasp at first but over trial and error I began to understand how to make things look more realistic to real life in Pencil.

The hardest part of this brief was learning how to create objects and then animate them within the 3-D animation program Maya. I feel that I'm quite strong at creating objects in the 3-D Environment as I have little to no difficulties put together an object, for example The King Chess Piece seen in my animation is made up of around 12 different objects all blended to create the one, I also feel I am confident at mapping and adding textures to objects in Maya as after learning how to I found do difficulty giving my Dice it's spots. Altogether I feel that I'm strong at making a scene including lighting and shadows as my final products look similar to something a professional may produce but it is when I start to animate in Maya that I begin to feel that I am not very confident.

The process of animating in Maya is very similar to Stop Animation in that you save key frames and the computer will then add the missing movements to string one key frame to another. I found giving the effects easing in and out and weight to the objects movements quite difficult as to change these I had to use the Graph Editor, each movement appears as a mathematical translation onto a graph of the time line. By using the Graph Editor I was supposed to make the animation look much better but in the end I never did quite understand how to utilise it properly even with my tutor's help, the animation would often look worse than it did before I began to use the Graph Editor.

If I could go back and change one thing it would most likely be the camera angles, I do not know how to use the camera in Maya but the perspective camera has done a good job in capturing that I want to present. Overall I found this whole experience quite interesting as 3-d modeling and animation is the future of the business but with the soon to be released "Princess and The Toad" by Walt Disney Pictures perhaps traditional two-dimensional animation is quite dead which is quite exciting for me as it is an area I want to explore more as I feel that would be much more capable of creating a piece of animation through those means than that of 3-D rendering. Through this all I have learned that 3-D animation is not my strong point, but I am not useless at it and it's a skill I am grateful to have learned.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Animation Ten: Animatic For Final Product

Whilst animating my final piece of animation I made a quick animatic to show how it should look in a bare bones kind of way. Unfotunately a lot has had to be edited from the original concept seen in the storyboard as I was too ambitious and ended up making the over all story too long, so I cut it down so that it had the main points of the short animation that I wanted to present. Below is that animatic.

It's proving quite difficult to animate my wholes piece but overall it is an effort that is well worth it. I can't wait to show it.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Contextual Studies: Narratives

For Contextual Studies I was given the task of finding and researching a narrative that uses media in an unusual/interesting way to present to the class the following week. After much consideration I settled on the narrative of Year Zero, the concept behind Industrial Rock Band Nine Inch Nails' 5th studio album (of the same name) as it span several different medias that all piece together to form the story that takes place in the year 2022. These medias include music, video, images, text and the use of the Internet including the reader/viewers' own input.

(Trailer promoting Year Zero, 2007, Rob Sheridan)

Above is the trailer promoting the new album but it also introduces two concepts of the world of Year Zero, first the sign that passes by read "I am Trying To Believe" which is a phrase that plays a strong role in both the music and web based parts of the narrative. As the video progresses a ghostly hand is seen protruding from the sky, when the camera turns to it electrical distortion appears to be an effect of the this hand. This hand known as The Presense is a strong element of the Year Zero story most likely relating to the concept of "The Hand Of God".

The story of Year Zero (at realease set in 2007) is that the United States of America has fallen into a shamble of what it was previously with laws being warped and mass use of a new drug used to control the public. For the participants of the story it can experience due to scientists transporting web pages from their time (2022) to ours to prevent their future from happening. As this is a multi media narrative each new media adds a new spin, perspective or part to the story, the idea is that people have to search out different parts beyond the music featured on the album, through Internet searches and finding clues hidden in the lyrics, packaging and then following clues and links from each subsequent web site.

Aside from just veiwing and reading the participant of the narration can take part of the vibe of the Year Zero tale. Another strong theme within the narration is "Art is Resistance" with another release of an album titled "Year Zero: Remixed" (or "Y34rZ3R0R3M1X3D" as it is shown on the packaging) which had all the songs of the previous album remixed by other musicians to create new variations of the originals. It came bundled with the music software Ableton Live 7 (demo) and the mastertracks to "Year Zero" which allowed anyone who bought the album to remix and create music and join the fictional resistence against the United States Goverment of 2022.

(The Cover to Year Zero Remixed, artwork by Rob Sheridan)

The whole Year Zero project was a very interesting way to show a story, becuase of it outstanding effort in creating a new variation on the concept album genre by also giving listeners an "alternative realty video game" to play to find out more about the back story it has won sveral awards. This effort should be noted as one of the most unique ways in presenting a story even though it can be slightly convoluted it is nonetheless an amazing proof of how much one person can care about presenting their narrative to the world.

If you want to find out more about the Year Zero story as there is so much to cover it would take me and age to write about it check out this link here.

Creative Industries: Copyrighting my work, Knowing my Rights

When it comes to getting things copyrighted and proving your ownerships there are many ways to go around doing this but one of the most easiest and effective way of gaining a copyright is by creating a Deviant Art Account, with this account anything you upload is automatically copyrighted to your user name which in turn is attached to your e-Mail then your personal details, and as you post it you automatically have a date stamp as it tells viewers when it was uploaded, meaning if there were any disputs about ownership Deaviant Art should be able to settle the arguement, this works very well for independant artists.

Another good thing about the copyrighting process on Deviant Art is that when uploading you can also choose license in which to release your work, such as a creative commons license allowing people to use your work for free aslong as you're credited for it's use.

One such instance of this instant copyright coming in great use was when I uploaded a short sequentially illustrated narrative, everything for this piece was created by me, first using photographs and then photoshop. During the production I did use an image from and name of a Rockband luckily the album that I used has a creative commons license allowing me to use it as long as I do not claim ownership of that said material.

If I was to get a publisher though I would first have to find out how to use the images not created by myself, most likely asking permission from the original creator. If I was denied I would have to change it, but if they request a payment I would have to organise the terms of agreement over payments before printing. If a buyer came up to me requesting to buy the rights I think I would probably sell the rights aslong as I get a share of what ever money it may bring in and get credit for it. I would probably choose this as I feel my story isn't going to go very far finacially or creatively.

Unfortunately if a client wanted exclusive rights that would be a bit tricky with my short story appearing on Deviant Art already as it has been seen by other people so it may be a case of just accepting that exclusive rights would be right out of the window. For the next time if I had something I would have to refrain from posting it on Deviant Art and getting a copyright via another medium to allow a client to purchase exclusive rights.

Visual language: Interm Crit.

his week was the time for the interm crit to show my development on my idea for the character creation brief in which I chose the words "Fish" and "Robot" to combine together to create a new character, my main idea that I seem to be following is that of fish donning robotic suits equipped with reverse aqua lungs that allow them to breathe on land, I've also been working on a back story to the character (/characters). Such as the character living in "sea-ciety" of sorts complete with hierarchies for different types of fish but before I go in to that, let's take a look at the slightly more developed concept of my "fish-in-a-suit".

Above is an image I drew up on adobe Photoshop depicting a more developed look to my initial suit idea, I really enjoy this idea and have been experimenting with different types of fish to place in the suit, with variations of design, but I still need to work on how the legs would appear. The reverse aqua lung is visible on the front of the chest and in the position where the lungs on a person would be. I also used the idea of a large bulking design as I feel it's what is representative of technology with the ability to sustain aquatic life. Overall my inspirations have been sci-fi imagery ranging from "Star Wars" films to the video game series "Half-Life".

Now I mentioned the back story to my character within a society with rulings and a class system. My rough concept for this is that you have the intellectual grouping represented by creatures such as octopuses and squids and maybe small whales that rule of the rest of the sea life, then below them you have other types of fish with fill out the main population. I decided that the Sharks would be the warriors of the "sea-ciety" and have more of a harness than a suit, it would be interesting to see what I could develop with the different types of sharks there are. Then finally creatures like crabs and sea snails are the janitors of my world, but I have still not decided on how they will look.

Whilst I have all these ideas bubbling in my head I feel it would be best to focus on one group and I think that would be the Sharks as I see it to be filled with the greatest amout of potential for various design and it's quite fun to draw sharks aswell. Whilst all this development is coming along on major note made during the crit was that I was still undecided on what media this character will be used in (game/film/mascotbook etc.). That's something that I will be considering as I go along design as I feel the answer will appear during the design process, overall the crit was positive and that I should just continue developing my ideas.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Animation Nine: Starting to Animate

This week was the first expeierence of truly putting together a piece of animation and learning to render it properly and put it together in the computer program "Adobe After Effects". After selecting the render settings and batch rendering (batch rendering being a fuction that turns my animation into a series of images) in Maya I then open up the first image in the sequence and select the render function in After effects which then takes all over images in that sequence and string them together and turns it into a animation in a selected format of the users choice.

Above is an test animation I created to show how my dice piece will move, it's also a good example of how I got to grips with the rendering process. I also looked into early pixar work, most notably Luxo Jr. to just get a grasp off how to handle animating inanimate objects. I looked closely at the movements and studied them to just see how to accurately animate them, I also looked at how a dice rolls in real life.

Animating takes some time and patience but the reward is its self when you see your creations moving, next week I will be focusing soley on turning my storyboard into an animation.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Contextual Studies: What can be labeled as Punk?

When it comes to Punk the stereotypical image that is conjured in one's head is that of a person dressed in leather complete with Mohawk, piercings and a bad attitude. This shouldn't be the case as at the time (1970s) to be punk was to rebel against certain aspects of society and to break free of what you felt oppressed you. So in what relevance does this have to art?

Jamie Reid's art for "God Save The Queen" by The Sex Pistols.

So now that we've established what a rough definition of "Punk" can be lets look at an example of punk art work of the era. Above is Jamie Reid art work for the cover to the single "God Save the Queen", a song about the state of the goverment and monarchy. The image depicts the Queen Elizabeth II with her eyes and mouth covered by font, possibly representing the fact that she is no more than a figure head within society (as mentioned within the song). This image made a large amount of comotion at the time as no-one has defaced the queen make this quite the rebellious image. Another piece of artwork that created a stir in both the public and media was the portrait of Myra Hindley consisting of painted hands of children (see image below), as the subject combined with the method of creation was something that many people saw in bad taste. But surely this can be recognised as punk as it goes against what people consider acceptable and there in lies it's categorisation as it is a rebellion against acceptability, but was it made to purposefully upset people?

The portrait of Myra Hind by Marcus Harvey.

But in colleration to music what can be labelled as punk as an image to connect oneself to an aspect of pop-culture and as things evolve and develop, punk has grown into more of an image style than a statement. As the music has changed so has the artwork used to represent it, with bands creating music that seems to try out due each other, or bring in other influences from other genres it seems that punk has become distorted from what it used to be. Below is an image by artist Dan Mumford for a cover to "In the Belly Of the Shark" single by the British band Gallows. The image is a huge contrast to the make-shift and basic "anyone can do it" attitude of the "God Save the Queen" cover, The image shows tight lines and understanding of colour and composition this shows the evolution from the humble beginnings of punk's "D.I.Y." philosophy to something a lot more complex and this is also reflecting in the music.

Dan Mumford's cover to "In the Belly of the Shark".

In the modern world where everyone wants to be famous and out do each other it's increasingly difficult to define what is Punk as everyone is try to do something themselves or apply other essences of things to another taking many things and putting them together and at the moment truly the only thing that would be rebellious is to try to do something such as televise live murder. Society has experienced punk and has has it's rebellious age but now to do anything on a grand scale is either madness or stupid and the only type of rebellion that is present are small ones like swapping price tags in a shop. In short Punk is rebellion of any sort against anything you could think of be it styles of music, art, clothing and come up with you're own solutions to these objects of culture.

Creative Industries: Personality tests

[ Under Construction ]

Visual Language: A new Brief approaches!

After completing two mini briefs, "About Me" and "Character Archetype Design", a new brief has been presented to me. I was given the choice of selecting one of the following; "Character Design", "Cityscape" and finally "Photographic Investigation". I decided that I would choose to complete the character design brief as I had a lot of fun working on the previous character achetype design brief, but this time the brief is less vague. I was to create a character by combining two words from the choice below;

Robot, Dog, Cloud, Fire, Fish, Cello, Umbrella, Snow, Tuba and Tomatoe.

I decided on using the words Robot and Fish as these two words arn't often combined it could prove to have some very interesting outcomes and admittedly I already had ideas buzzing in my head at the prospects of trying to combine the two. With that in mind I made a quick mood board to help focus my ideas and gather some ideas for basic concepts, as I am unsure of how I want my creations to look I collected many different styles for inspiration ranging from photographs to paintings to cartoons, there is also a strong sci-fi theme in this mood board which I think translate the robot aspect quite well.

(What will come from this?)

There is also the reason of this character's design that I should consider as for what purpose it's being created for could help me decide how to overall character will turn out; will it be for a videogame? If so what kind? (eg. First person adventure, RPG, Platformer). Or a Film/ Animation/Comic? And finally maybe a Mascot for something much like Tony The Tiger is the mascot of Frosties cereal (a personal favourite). It might also be an interesting angle to try develop a basic character design and modify it to suit each of these medias, especially the videogame one as there are many different genres that I could modify the character for. Below you can find the first two rough sketchs that I created based on the initial ideas I had in my head at the time.

(click to enlarge)

I quite like the idea of the smaller fish having this large mechanical suit with a sort of reversal of an aqua-lung allowing them to survive in places where there is no water, and the concept with the shark as a kind of parody of a diver with it's mechanical limbs. I feel I am off to a good start and want to develop these ideas as well as come up with new ones, this shall be a very interesting brief. Whilst I have not quite chosen the format that this character will appear in I think it'll reveal itself as I progress through the design stages and I get to know my character a little better.

Contextual Studies: Outlining The Uncanny in Media

Within the media the theme of the uncanny is one that is very strong especially in the entertainment industries which focuses on presenting both informative features and fictional ones. The uncanny is often a staple element within the fictional features found in entertainment to help make the story more fantastical and interesting to the viewer, there are also many aspects to what we can label as "The Uncanny" as there are many different genres of entertainment but each one can have it's own version of the uncanny. One example is that within comic books, especially superhero based ones where the concept of people who can fly and are stronger than the strongest man on earth is something that can be viewed as uncanny, then there are drama shows such as Coronation Street where things happen which are similar to our own but a lot more dramatic it could not be real with events such as murder and overly complex family fights, even these mundane things can be defined as uncanny.

That's just some of the examples of what can be classed as the uncanny within media but it's more of looking at the uncanny as an adjective. What about the Uncanny as a feeling, a sense of aesthetics? A good example of this would be any of the works of Jan Svankmajer, a film maker who is known to incorporate stop motion within his works but the end results is something that doesn't seem quite right a perfect example would be his work Alice in which the opening scene we see the White Rabbit come to life and this is done through the wonders of stop-motion animation. The way it moves is slightly jerky and unnatural but nonetheless it still mimics movement and this relation to reality with a distorted spin is what makes it Uncanny.

Another example of this type of stop-motion used to create the sense of "Uncanniness" is within the Horror genre film "Ju-on: The Grudge" in which a ghost of a women moves in a very discorntorted manner whilst coming down stairs using both her hands and her feet. It's this type of movement that creates the unerving feeling outlined by Frued in his theory of what the representation of the Uncanny is.

There are many ways the uncanny can be represented within media ranging from film to television, literature and even videogames, but here are just so many but I can garentee where there is fiction there will be an element of the uncanny waiting to be found.

Visual Language: Character Design Evaluation

Finally here we have the completed character design that I've been working on. In the end I decided to settle for the short hair as I felt it brought a certain uniqueness to the character as a whole. When it came to designing the clothes I was heavily inspired by the character designs found in Lost Planet and the tv-series Neon Genesis Evangelion whilst trying to keep a realistic look. Whilst the clothes take origin from animation and computer games the world in which I envision her is something similar to that found in the film Bladerunner, a cyber punkish but faux-realistic future where society hasn't exactly got better.

(The Final Version of My Character)

I chose quite earthy colours to contrast with typical character designs of futuristic settings, but also to get the feel of heavy construction workers into the design via means of the use of orange as the main colour. I also constructed a back ground for my character aswell as a short biography and profile, I decided that her ethnicity would be Korean as I was trying to think of a nationality not often used in western media, once this was decided I gave the name "Ta-Yun Lee" know as "Tay" for short. The year is set in 2127, 13 years after a world devistating event known as "Impact". The main idea is that Tay would be a sort of anti/no-hero in that she is a help for hire accepting odd jobs whilst also trying to uncover the truth about the event known as "Impact" using military ties that she has gain from both a stint in the armed forces and also through her father. I gave her balanced characteristic of being skilled with technology, extrovert but untrusting and stubborn, also Tay is able to take the itiative in a bad situation.

Developing this character has been an intersting experience and it's something that I really enjoyed but also found that it to be a fun challenge. Designing the costume for the character was a new challenge for me as I wanted to create something practical that would be used in something such as a film. I feel that with the creation of this character I want to expand on her in another format and build on her in narrative form as I think I could create and entertaining story that people would enjoy.

Animation Eight: Rendering and Lighting

In this week's lesson of Animation I focused on learning how to utilise lighting and textures in the animation & rendering program Maya. There are several types of lights that I could use within Maya but the two main types that you'll use during animation are "Area Light"s which are lights in the shape of a square which gives good lighting to objects and the general environment, the other lighting option is "spotlight" which does pretty much as the name suggests and is good for both area lighting and object lighting. Using a tutorial to set up 3 point lighting I created the image below, with shadows added it makes an image appear alot more realistic and nicer to look at in general.

(Click To Enlarge)

Once I had mastered the the entricities of 3 point lighting I set out to learn how to texture items. By going into the hypershade menu I can add textures to rendered items by selecting from a list of pre-existing ones such as marble. With these texture I can add them as a "Skin" or select bump mapping which will give the affected object 3-D textures similar to the skin.

(Click To Enlarge)

With textures and lighting I can give a much more polished look to my animations once they are fully rendered, ofcourse this is at the expense of an increased file size but it is worth it to see the end product, above is the end product and I quite proud in that I feel confident in my skills with both the hypershade menu and use of lighting.

Check This Out: I went to Bradford Animation Festival

This year I and the rest of my class were treated to tickets to all of the shows going on at the first two days of the Bradford Animation Festival. The first two days (10-11th of nov.) focused on the topic of Video Games and thier development, the line up had a fair few confrences and showcases lined up aswell as some interesting entertainment in the evening including a performance from Pixelh8 and Big screen gaming.

My expectations of the festival were generally non-exsitant as I had no preconceptions of what it was going to be like. I had previously been to the Eurogamer Expo, but I knew that this was going to be very different off the bat. When we arrived at the National Media Museum (formerly the National Film, Photography & Television Museum) we were informed that several events including Pixelh8's performance had been cancelled or that they had either been replaced by something less interesting. This did put a serious dent into my expectations of the festival as I immediately thought that it was poorly organised because of this.

The line up for the two days seemed very interesting but the cancelations made an impact on this. The first confereance of the day was presented by animation studio "Amanita Design" who were talking about both themselves and the production of their new game "Machinarium". The game was in the style of point and click adventure where in the player controls a small robot on his mission to stop the black cap gang from over throughing the mayor of robot town and save his girlfriend. For the first time in a long while I was astounded by what this design studio had done, the main feature of Machinarium was that the whole thing is made up of traditional drawn elements. The background and characters all stem from pieces of artwork drawn by hand and then scanned into the computer, from there it's all animated and put together with coding. Another interesting part of the whole presentation was how the composer created the music for the game.

The next interesting conference was presented by UK games developer Team 17, most famously known for creating the much loved Worms series of video games, they were presenting their new game which is a remake of an older IP (Interlectual Property) "Alien Breed: Evolution". It was interesting to see how they had used the Unreal Engine (which is usually used to render first and third person genre games) to render a top down arcade style shooter. It was also insightful to see how a slightly more professional studio works as opposed to the indy developers Amanita Design work.

A really interesting talk came at the end of the day when Ian Livingstone, co-founder of Gamesworkshop and Product Acquisition Director of the videogame developers Edios Interactive. Livingstone talk through a little of his own history and largely about the videogame series Tomb Raider (Eidos' most notable IP). The overall conferance was very charming and we were even treated to a clip of the Tomb Raider Album which was written during it's big popularity boom in the late 90s. Overall the first day was fun and full of interesting conferances with many opertunities to ask questions straight to the presenters.

In the evening I attended the Bigscreen gaming which was alot of fun. Essentially it was playing videogames on a cinema screen and I have to admit that The Beatles: Rockband has never been the same for me since playing it there. The festival was also holding a competition where the highest scorer would win a prize, through being the only person brave enough to play vocals and get 100% on hard on the song "Hello, Goodbye" I ended up winning a very cool prize, the Sony Eyepet. I also some how managed to attract some Rockband Groupies, unfortunately after three songs the crowd opted to play Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 instead and I suddenly became very uninterested by a generic first person shooter. Winning a prize did make up for Pixelh8's cancellation though.

(My prize...unfortunately I don't Own a Playstation 3.)

On the second day I found that many of the conferances were not geared towards my interests and not as insightful as the previous day's as it was also full of cancellations with replacesments which did not seem as good. Two did stand out the first being Fluid Pixel, a games design company who specialised with creating Mobile phone videogames were trying to set out to create a brand with one of their products ranging over a selection of medias, it was nice to see and small based company try establish a brand but I felt their brand was a little lost but nonetheless could appeal to younger audiences. The second that stood out was a presentation by the creator of the Broken Sword series of point and click adventure video games, Charles Cecil. The presentation talked about the re-release of the original game "Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars" and how it was created using low poly count 3-d models with cel shading to re-create the drawn look of the original. Over all it was quite engaging to see how companies re-invent previous installments.

The overall festival was enjoyable with the most memorable events happeneing on the first day as opposed to the lackluster second day, with many cancelations happening across the event in general it did bring the excitement down aswell as regards to the levels of management. The bonus of winning a prize was quite good aswell. Overall an enjoyable experience, hopefully next years will be a little more organised.