Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Contextual Studies: A Brief Introduction

With a new school year comes new classes, this year I received a new tutor for Contextual and Theoretical Studies. The first task that was set was to write a brief introduction about my interests, this should help the new tutor get a good bearing on how to help us develop ideas for dissertations further down the line. So with out further ado here is my brief introduction about my interests;

The main reason I joined this course was because it covered a range of some of my more prominent interests such as animation, film and games design but when it comes down to it, whilst it's interesting to learn about how it's made I'm really more interested it creating the designs and concepts for these aspects of media. I really want to improve my skills in drawing and designing characters, props, vehicles and anything else that might appear in these medias.
When it comes to theoretical studies I was quite impressed by the history of type and I wouldn't mind learning more about the courses subjects and how they've developed through the ages and what the influences upon them have been such as how current politics could have effected Disney animations etc.
As mentioned in a previous post the book I chose to develop into a title sequence is "In The Miso Soup" by Ryu Murakami, the reason I chose this one was because of it's dark themes but contrasts with it's bright setting of Tokyo, I thought this would be able to create some really interesting visuals, also it'd be a fun challenge to try combine the typography of two cultures by trying to integrate Japanese characters into the title sequence somehow.
What I want from the contextual Studies Module is to provide background information to the subjects I'm learning about in my main course to help fill out my knowledge so that when it comes to writing my dissertation I can write about something relevant aswell as being able to write about that subject in a well informed manner.

With that I feel I've explained my general desires about my course with what I want out of it as best as I can right now as to be honest I really have no idea where I want to head in my life and at the moment thats alright.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Research into Title Sequences

When it comes to researching Titles sequences there is such a multitude of movies out there that feature exceptional opening/ending credits it's so hard to sift through them all to analyse. Luckily The website; Art of The Title Sequence has a whole collection of cinema and televisions more notable title sequences, be it for technicality or the level of creativity of composition. Below is a selection of Title Sequences I particularly like, along with them will be an analysis of certain aspects of the sequence such a choice of font, composition and creativity.

Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs- End Title Animation from YELLOWSHED on Vimeo.

I've never seen the film "Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs" but when looking for title credits to analyse this stuck out due to it's colourful design. Upon watching it I really liked the way that each different scene set by layering one in front of the other as the camera pans across the setting. The animation for the characters is simple and yet runs quite smoothly which adds to the charm of the sequence. The fonts used for the credits are clearly custom designed for this sequence as they're designed to fit in with the background scenes but it probably wouldn't be impossible to find similar fonts. Little design touches such as creating vehicles and buildings out of food really makes it a feast for the eyes (I even like the little joke about London). Everything about this sequence fits from the bright colours to the cheerful piece of music and the "bobbing" style of the animated characters, this title sequence is so good it actually makes me want to see the film.

The opening credits to 1998's TV series "Cowboy Bebop" just exudes style, from the pumping jazz track, to the animation which follows the beat and rhythm of the music to the colours choices of heavy blacks and bright contrasting colours. Then there's the little touches such as having one animation's component opening up into another and the use of copious amounts of text to help fill empty backgrounds, the choice of font has obviously been carefully considered to help capture the feeling of the jazz age to fit with the music. An important factor of an opening sequence for a TV series is to try portray what the show will be about and I feel that this opening does quite well to introduce the main characters and themes of the show, when it comes to title sequences I always feel it's like looking at a front cover or a movie poster in that you want to be able to see if the piece of entertainment you're about to watch will suit your tastes. An opening should not give away the plot of a movie or specific episode of a TV series. It would be stating the obvious if I were to say that this piece has great composition and it's definitely a nice contrast to "Cloudy with a chance of Meatballs", whilst both are animated one is simpler and the other is more technical but both convey their purpose excellently.

This opening sequence taken from 2006's "Casino Royale" is another visually exciting piece with heavy use of visual animation. The opening clearly presents the theme of the film to viewers with it's playing card motif/environments and action scenes within these environments, the music fits well and even the lyrics fit with the well established character of Bond. Again what these opening credits it generally seems to be the little feature that make them impressive, in Casino Royale's it's the animations within animations such as when the guns fire the Spade-shaped bullets the nozzles flare is made up of a kaleidoscope of different playing card suits. The composition and use of virtual cameras to make each scene dynamic really pays off as it grabs the attention of the viewer it's just a shame too see that the type almost seems to take a backseat to the animated visuals but sometimes it's better to have a balance of a technical animation sequence and simple type or vice versa. When looking at these opening it really is phenomenal as if they were extended and turned into films themselves they really could become a new subgenre of film.

I've looked through a large number of title sequences including; American Psycho, Sin City, Burn After Reading, Alien, Monty Python And The Holy Grail, Monty Python's Life of Brian, The Machinist, The Terminator Films and Crank : High Voltage. Over the course of looking over these title sequences I've learned that the general ingredients to creating a memorable sequence, these include; focusing on a theme or character from the film, if you're placing credits over filmed footage try make the type noticeable or unique, always consider composition and little details to pad out what may be a boring scene. There seem to be many different methods and techniques used in creating a title sequence be it live footage, animation or still shots what really matters is finding one that suits the subject you're creating a sequence for.

After seeing all these sequences I'm getting anxious to start crafting my own title sequence as the more I watch the more my head is filled with influence. I believe I may work with photoshop and after effects to create my own title sequence as I feel it'll be easier than to shoot my own footage.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Researching Type

Considering I haven't created any concepts from my title sequence researching which font to use has proved to be tricky so I decided to create a document presenting a list of different types of fonts available to me currently in Photoshop (and that will be available over the whole adobe suite). By having this list I can constantly look at the fonts and decide on how I want the type to look through the development stages of creating the concepts. I feel in my current position this is a good method as it's essentially a mood board but of fonts. See the Document below:

For the title card I wanted to integrate the Hirigana for "In The Miso Soup" but when I tried typing out the characters under several different fonts the characters used the same font every time so I'm going to have to research a method of presenting the Japanese characters differently, this may lead to doing it by hand which is something I'd rather avoid as my hand lettering is far from admirable.

Over the next few days I'm going to start developing the ideas I've been devising in my head, with the font moodboard it should be easier to decide which font to use, by thursday there should be atleast two ideas to present to the Intrim Crit on Friday.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

The Art of APB: All Points Bulletin

As with the fast moving world of business sometimes companies can come and go before they can breathe properly, this happened quite recently with UK Video Game Developer Realtime Worlds best known for the games "Crackdown" and "APB: All Points Bulletin". APB was to be one of the most ambitious MMORPGs with a very basic concept of "Cops & Robbers" but what was to truly set it apart from other MMOs was the amount of customisation you were capable of, we're talking everything from your character to your vehicle with custom decals, details and almost anything you could think. This allowed you to create a character that was truly unique instead of playing around with a bunch or presets to come up with unique combination. check out an example of the character creation in the video below:

As you can see from the video the graphics for this MMO were pretty impressive and it's such a shame that the company went bust.

Whilst looking into what was left of APB a few days ago I came across a collection of concept art for the style that Realtime Worlds wanted characters to portray. All of the Concept art I found was completed by deviantart user Arnistotle. If you just look at some of the images he's crafted there is an incredible sense of design, aesthetics and even attitude about his work, you can see what Realtime Worlds chose to work with him. Let's take a look into some of my favourite designs I found in Arnistotle's gallery:

I really like this one as it shows a certain playful side to a character, with recent videogames constantly being centred around brutish space marines is nice to see a change. The inclusion of the SS uniform cap and fur jacket really make this character stand out. The motif of punk styled clothing mixed with an often cliched city female gang aesthetic really make this character unique and the use of several belts shows an influence from the works of Tetsuya Nomura (FFVII, FFVIII & Kingdom Hearts) but with it's heavier uses of darker colours, tones and motifs it really gives the design an edge that Nomura's sometimes lacks. (Click to enlarge the image).

This design really breaks from the norm, whilst the previous one was clearly inspired by Eastern RPG games this one really makes an impact and shows the player that this world of cops and robbers is filled with a variety of personalities. When I first look at this I immediately think of a 1930s pulp type character, the inclusion of the large brown raincoat helps give the design a sense of power, this is probably due to the type of coat often see as a masculine symbol it really adds some attitude to a female character. Whilst the character appears powerful she's still female and her design is nonetheless very glamourous to re-enforce this. Overall this is a fantastic piece and only makes me sad that the game went under.

My final piece to look as is the male character below, clearly inspired by skateboard and punk culture what sets this one part from others is the vivid colours used, the blues, reds and greens all go well together and help make what would have been a very boring design or a generic muscular guy. The detail on the skateboard should also be noted as it's such a minor touch and isn't really necessary but recieves large brownie points regardless! Again multiple belts show their face again but this is easily ignored when looking at the amount of effort and detail put into the tattoos.

There has clearly been alot of love, time and thought put into these designs and it's such a shame that the game was only online for just under a month. For more concept designs for APB check out Arnistotle's Deviantart page Here!

Friday, 1 October 2010

Getting to Grips with After Effects

Over the last two days I've taken a crash course in Adobe After Effects, I can now say that after these last two days I feel much more confident in designing and creating an title sequence for "In The Miso Soup". I've learned such skills as importing images, working with compositions within compositions and most importantly making 2-dimensional images appear in 3-dimensional space. I've also learned how to make simple animations by adjusting certain qualities of an image through the time line. Below you'll find my first attempt at making a 2.5 dimensional sequence:

For this short sequence what I did was take the image to the right and seperate it in to different layers but sellecting and cutting, once the components (The leaves, the girl and hanging man) were all seperate from the background (The trees and the road) I used Photoshop 5's content aware tool to fill in the areas with holes and touch up other areas using the clone stamp and paintbrush tools. With the background and components all touched up I then save them all as different PSD files with transparent canvases. This means once it's imported into After Effects it'll appear as just that either the girl, hanging man etc. I then arrange the pieces accordingly after selecting the 3D node in the layer properties, the next step is relatively simple as I just animate the objects to move very subtlely be it in 2-dimensions such as right and left or in 3-dimensions by adjusting rotation values. By adding a camera and lighting I can make it look more 3-dimentional as with added perspectives of a moving camera and shadows from a light will help re-enforce this effect.

Next I created a brief animation of some birds flying off the screen. This was completed by first creating an animation of a 2-d bird flapping it's wings usng the object manipulations tools found in the layer's own properties and a looping code, I then created a new cmposition in which I imported the same animation of the bird several time, adjusting size and the tracks on which it would move. Overall this was useful as it showed how handy it can be to have compositions work within one and another as this will allow smaller animations to take place in larger onces without have to create a tiny animation that might interfere with the main one, you can see the bird below:

I found the last two days to be massively engrossing and useful and I can't wait to start creating a title sequence with this knowledge. I'm also very keen to try create some 2.5D comics using scans from my own personal collection as I would love to see how something like that would turn out, with the technological advances with CS5 in both Photoshop and After Effects it seems animation is fast becoming much easier than it ever was! I can't wait to sin my teeth into more!