Sunday, 22 May 2022

'Bear' Animation Week 10

Want to guess how many shots I completed this week? I’ll tell you: 14!! 7+7. FOURTEEN. Best week so far. The timeline is filling up super nicely and it feels fantastic to be making so much progress. It really feels like I’m on the finishing stretch now for the outlines- something which several weeks ago seemed years off!

This week I was able to dedicate almost the whole week to working on my film thanks to not having any photo editing to do. It felt quite nice and relaxing that I was able to do so, though I did miss the photography side of things. But a break is good too and it did allow me to make BIG progress on ‘Bear’. Manchester Animation Festival has now opened submissions for this years competition, with the decline being 29th July. Which is therefore my deadline for this- it’s a brilliant festival (and fairly local), making it a great date to aim for.

If I keep going at this rate, the outlines should be done in a few weeks- though like I mentioned last week, there are some fairly tricky shots to come. I know I mentioned the end of May as my target, though I might be a week or two out. If this is the case, I should still be able to get the backgrounds, colour and comp (i.e. finish the thing!!) for said end of July deadline.

Here’s the screen shot for this weeks progress:

Sunday, 15 May 2022

‘Bear’ Animation Week 9

Last week I mentioned I had a 156 frame shot to complete and this week, I managed to finish it, along with 10 others, making this week my highest achieving week in terms of shot completion yet!! And that was working only 4 days- I still had one day where I mainly edited photos. I am so, so, soooo pleased with my progress and it just makes me want to keep going.

I’ve passed the halfway mark (which is mega exciting) and the end is definitely in sight- or at least it is for the outlines. Though I do have a number of tricky shots still to do- trust me, it’s not all plain sailing from here. I’ve been saving the harder ones until I really have to do them. I think that’s a good decision though, as when I started the project I doubt I’ll have been able to tackle them, or not at least as well as I’ll be able to at this point in the process. It’s taken a while to get into the flow of the character and what details to include and so on. I feel there are going to be a few shots I’ll revisit for a bit of a touch up- the earlier stuff isn’t as complex as the current stuff, so I think I’m going to go back in and add some more lines on some of the shots. I think that goes with the territory of animating on a long project like this. Maybe for future projects, I’ll do some ‘warm up’ shots first to really get the mannerisms and style locked, so it will appear more consistent. That’s not to say that this looks all over the place (it doesn’t), but there are some shots I do want to adjust.

But I suppose that’s just evidence of me growing and developing as an artist anyway- whenever I look back on previous work, there’s always things I’d do differently if I were to revisit the project…

Back to what I was saying at the top of this post about finishing a quite lengthly/ difficult shot, I’ve collated a couple of ways in which I tackled it (for anyone reading this and in the same boat):

Firstly: to work on it for a short amount of time daily. Anything between 30 minutes to 2 hours can really make a difference and sometimes 30 minutes was all I was able to handle a day for this particular shot. But because I chipped away at it each day, I got it finished. Working on it in this manner made the shot feel not as daunting as if I were to say section off 7 hours in a row to work on it. It would have put me right off and perhaps even lead me to avoid working on the project altogether. The smaller chunks were much easier to handle, so would highly recommend this if you’re stuck on something.

Secondly, to work on it when you have the most energy/ can’t make any excuses for not doing it. Which for me is first thing in the morning. Mornings are when I work best and my energy slowly depletes throughout the day, so I tend to schedule all the hard tasks first thing, ending in easier/ more relaxing ones in the afternoon. If you don’t know when you work best, try out several different times and I’m sure you’ll soon find a pattern which uses your energy in the most efficient way.

That’s all for now, so will leave you with this timeline screen grab update (so much orange on there now)!!

Wednesday, 11 May 2022

2022 Reel Update

I've updated my showreel for 2022:

I definitely think it's my strongest yet and I'm really proud of all the work that features in it. Let's hope it leads to good things!!

I've also added the word 'director' to my title card. Something I've never considered before now, but I definitely feel confident enough to put it in- after all, I direct all my work which urm, kind of makes me a director, right?! The more I say it, the more it becomes real...

Sunday, 8 May 2022

'Bear' Animation Week 8

This week was a little more productive in terms of shot completion than last week: I finished 4 shots in full, with shot no. 38 (a biggie: 156 frames) almost complete too, with another (shot 43) started (and almost finished).

This week felt great, due to having got over such a hurdle last week finishing the super 250 frame shot. It was nice to work on a few easier and shorter ones this week and see more progress evolve on the time line. It definitely feels like it's really coming along now and the end might be in sight?! I don't know if I dare say that out loud!! But hey, yeah I'm going to go with it! I think the outlines might be finished by the end of the month if I continue as I am. Football season is well and truly drawing to a close and I think I only have two matches left in which I plan on photographing in full. She says. So after the next week, I can turn my full attention to animating 'Bear'.

Not loads more to write about regarding my progress this week, so I'm going to do a little shout out: series 2 of 'Undone' has dropped on Prime Video just recently, which I highly recommend! If you love rotoscope or animation for adults in general, then this show is fantastic and honestly worth a watch. There's so much to it in terms of both story and visual elements. Series 1 is also on there, so if you've not watched that yet, then binge that and then head straight series 2- you won't regret it!! I love it when a really creative series or feature comes out, especially when it's rotoscoped, so will forever be flying the flag for the smaller things which might not get to the forefront of the algorithms. Plus they're just awesome! If I haven't convinced you already, then watch the trailer below:

Friday, 29 April 2022

'Bear' Animation Week 7

Cast your mind back to last week when I said I was taking on a gigantic 250 frame shot? Cool, well this week I finished it (fanfare please)! I honestly wasn’t sure if I’d get it finished this week and at some points it felt never ending, but today I managed it and I’m super pleased with the result. It wasn’t only the longest shot in the film, but also one of the most important ones, so there was an added pressure there as well.

Besides that, I wasn’t able to complete any more shots in full, though I did start another one which I’m a good amount (scientific term) of the way through. Next week that will be finished and then I’ve lined up a few smaller/ easier shots which I’m looking forward to animating.

Below is another one of those progress screen grabs from my DaVinci project (orange are the completed bits, ref footage underneath). I’m very happy with where I am in the project in terms of how much I’ve currently completed. Outlines finished by the end of May-be?! I would be extremely happy if I can achieve that.

Being as I’ve not got a lot else to say this week regarding the project progress, I thought I’d share some ways in which I’m staying motivated whilst animating this project. These may useful to anyone else reading this taking on a similar task. Or if not, then I guess you just get an insight into my life and my working methods!

• Firstly, I try to keep in mind the ‘big picture’ at all times. What I mean by this is that if I am feeling a little lost or unconfident in the project, I remind myself why I’m doing what I’m doing. For me, this is along the lines of: if I keep going I’ll have a completed short film in several months which will be an ambitious piece of work which will show who I am as a director/ filmmaker and the types of stories I want to tell. Which is one of the core reasons for making what I’m making in the first place. I revert back to this every now and again and it injects some new energy into what I’m doing.

• In addition to the above, I selected a story which I was really excited about and a film which I want to see. So I’d say even before you dive into something like this, ensure it’s something you want to make for your own reasons, not for anyone else(s). It’s easier to keep going on a project if you’re excited to see the end result and something which means something to you. Not saying every film needs to have a serious message or deep meaning (films don’t), but I’d say it needs to mean something to you as you’re the one making it. This is more of a choice to made early on, but an important one as you’re most likely going to be sitting with the project for a long time. If it’s something you don’t feel enthused about from the off, you’re going to lack the motivation to complete it, if things start to feel hard mid-way through.

• On a smaller, more day to day scale now we’ve got the big, overarching ones out the way, I have a strict but sensible work schedule. ‘Strict but sensible’??? Yes! I mean by this is that on the days that I have allocated to work on my film, I aim to get between 6-8 hours of animation done (7 or just over is ideal) and I don’t go over and don’t work weekends or evenings. Of course there are exceptions, but on the whole, I try to stick to this. Why? Burnout avoidance and trying to achieve a comfortable work/ life balance and putting time into the other things football I enjoy doing in life. At the end of the day, this is a self initiated project and whilst I am determined to see it through, I am not going to let other aspects of my life and my mental health suffer for something which is essentially arbitrary. It’s also a sustainable amount of work to do in a day, whereas 12 hours is not and I bet I’ll get sick of the project pretty quickly if I were to do that! Plus, on a creative level, if working whilst tired and unenthusiastic, my work will suffer as I’m not giving 100%. I bang on about the importance of this a lot in these posts, so I won’t go any further, but you get the point! Breaks and that are good!

• On an even smaller/ granular scale, I play back my work a lot when working on a shot. This is as a reminder of what I’m making and that each line I’m drawing is contributing to something in the film. It can feel a little monotonous at times, but playing it back breaks this up a bit and really gives me the motivation to carry on working as I’ve seen what I’ve achieved so far and makes me want to achieve more. This is especially apparent if working on a shot I’m not that confident with as it’s quite complex for example, then playing it and seeing the progress makes me think ‘oh yeah, it’s not that bad actually!’ and gives me the boost to carry on. Or at least most of the time!

• Finally, perhaps a fairly superficial one, but reminding myself of the amount of time, effort and money I’ve put into this project already. Why would I want all of that to go to waste and have nothing to show for it? I just wouldn’t. So if all the other reasons don’t work, then knowing that I’ve wasted several months and a fair bit of money will definitely be a motivating factor, if nothing else!

That’s all for now, I think. Hope it’s been useful and/ or insightful! See you in the next one xo

Sunday, 24 April 2022

'Bear' Animation Week 6

Admittedly, progress has been fairly s l o w this week. This is down to having lost a day due to the bank holiday, as well as spending a couple mornings editing my football photos from the weekend. So I actually ended up working just two full days, with extra hours slotted in where I could.

So with this in mind, I only finished two shots, plus started a third which I’m around 75% of the way through (maybe more, but it’s really hard to judge)! And this one is a biggie- we’re looking at 250 frames. So once this one is done, then that’s 20 seconds of the film chalked off already. I’m hoping for around no more than two more days spent on this one.

If I hadn’t made much progress on the big shot, then I don’t think I’d be that happy with how I’m doing, though I feel breaking into this one is another fairly large hurdle tackled. Like I said, hopefully next week I’ll complete it quite early on, then I’ll be able to speed through some of the easier ones. I like to work like that- after a hard/ long one, I give myself fun/ easier one(s) to do as a reward!

Football season is unfortunately drawing to a close now, so after a few more weeks, there won’t be as much to photograph, meaning May should be a mega productive month on my animation (at least I hope so)!

Thursday, 14 April 2022

'Bear' Animation Week 5

5 weeks in- wait- whaaat?! And progress is going very well. I'm actually loving what I'm creating here.

As I mentioned a few posts back, I've been placing the completed clips on the timeline in DaVinci- which you can see in the above image (I have labelled them orange so I can clearly see my progress). I've actually completed around a third maybe? It's kind of hard to tell from looking at that, but I do reckon if I squashed down all the orange bits to one side, it would probably make up one third.

Again, I didn't have a full week animating due to a couple of other events/ commitments, but I did manage to get five shots completed, almost finished a sixth and started another two. So a little down from last week, but I completed a few difficult shots which inevitably took longer. So even though in terms of quantity what I produced was lower, I feel I made some really good progress regardless.

I feel tackling some of the harder shots was down to having attended Cardiff Animation Festival at the weekend, leaving me super inspired and giving me a bit of a boost. It was amazing to be immersed in animation for four whole days- whether that be watching shorts, speaking with other animators or attending Q+A's (I did pretty much everything)!! Animating on my own in Preston where there isn't much of an animation community is sometimes fairly lonely, so being in an animation centric environment for an extended period felt brilliant and inspiring.

Above is an image of the Q+A I participated in (I'm the one in the yellow hat!) talking about my film '04111311' which screened at the festival, alongside several other talented animators/ directors talking about their own work. Laura-Beth Cowley was interviewing for the brilliant Skwigly online magazine/ podcast as part of one of the 'Animator's Brunch' events.

Talking of festivals, Manchester Animation Festival has been putting on monthly screening events at Chapeltown Picture House, Manchester. They screen around 75 minutes of well curated short films, with plenty of time for networking/ mingling- whatever you want to call it! I've so far attended all of them and they have been thoroughly enjoyable- would highly recommend if you're an animator based in the North West. It's been great involving myself more in the animation community here up north- I am now confident enough to attend these kind of things and to be honest, I wished I had started earlier!

I think that's all for this one, ready for a long bank holiday weekend (I probably should have mentioned that earlier so you don't think I'm going mad thinking that it's a Friday or something)! I'll of course be watching football (and lots of it)..!

Wednesday, 6 April 2022

'Bear' Animation Week 4

Those eagle-eyed of you will have noticed that I didn’t post one of these on Saturday like I have been doing each week since this project started, because I knew this week I would only be animating for two full days, therefore wanted to group this week with last week. The reason why? I am heading to Cardiff Animation Festival and I am extremely excited!!! I honestly can’t wait to be in a cinema again watching loadsss of short films with fellow animators and having (hopefully) a brilliant time meeting lots of new people and surrounding myself with all things animation over the course of the next four days. And also getting to see my film ‘04111311’ on a big screen with a proper sound system and an audience- exciting stuff.

But, before all the fun begins, let me enlighten you with how ‘Bear’ is going. This week I completed eight shots and made good headway on a further two. So I matched last weeks efforts.

I’m still really enjoying it, though it is a big film- it feels like it gets bigger and bigger the more I complete! Sometimes it feels like I’m making really good progress because I’m getting a lot finished, though other times it feels like will this even be complete within two years (hyperbole, of course, but sometimes that’s just the way I’m feeling).

I’ve just got to keep chipping away at it (in which I am) and even though I do have some internal deadlines, I don’t want to burn myself out or overwork myself for some dates which are essentially arbitrary. So I’m not going to panic yet- if I find myself ‘slacking’, then I will have a strong word with myself, but if I’m doing between 6-8 hours of it a day (like currently), then I’m not going to be complaining. It will get done when it gets done and the last thing I want to do is compromise the animation for the sake of an arbitrary deadline. I appreciate these things are good to have as they keep you on track, but again, I don’t want to break myself (or let other aspects of my life suffer) over something which isn’t ‘real’. It’s also extremely hard to judge how long things might take before starting a project, especially if it’s on a scale I’ve not worked at before.

I’ve actually got a special treat this week- yes, it’s another clip! I thought before starting animating, I’d be posting clips more frequently, but I actually want to keep most of it back, at least until I make a trailer/ teaser when it gets to that stage. So these will be quite sporadic, but they will be here when I post them!

Peace xo

Saturday, 26 March 2022

'Bear' Animation Week 3

Hey hey! I was back from my holiday this week (it was brilliant, thanks! We went to Plymouth followed by the Fife area of Scotland and watched 9 football matches in one week) and therefore back on track with the animation again.

My riding a stone Hippo in Glenrothes. I'm not childish, I promise.

Despite this week not being the smoothest in terms of actual hours I spent animating due to several other things I had going on, it was actually a fairly productive week in terms of ground covered. I finished 8 shots and nearly completed another 2. So again, up from the previous week. I like this trajectory!

I also started sequencing the completed shots on the timeline- something I should have probably done from the start, but neglected to until now. It felt like a little bit of effort as I had to export the outlines from each separate TVPaint file from the start, but it was definitely worth it. I can see my progress really clearly and it’s encouraging to see a fair amount of it sequenced together. It’s given me a well needed confidence boost in terms of my film as a whole and seeing it come together is a big motivator as it makes me want to put more and more completed shots on the timeline. I’ve changed my tune from my existential crisis a few weeks ago!

I’ve not got a clip to show this week- I’m in two minds about doing this that regularly, because there’s only so much I want to give away before the film is complete, but I do want to share parts of the progress as I continue. Perhaps I’ll share one every month (or when I feel the urge to post something on Instagram again)! Until next time, be safe and have fun xo

Monday, 21 March 2022

'Bear'- The Edit

After filming, I was extremely eager to get editing- I’ve always enjoyed editing as it feels like the bit where you actually ‘make’ the film. You know, turn a load of seemingly disjointed clips into something which tells a story. There’s just something fun about it- kind of like cooking a meal, going from ingredients which totally don’t mean much on their own, but when mixed properly, seasoned and cooked, you end up with something tasty! It’s quite fascinating what you can make with what doesn’t look like much to begin with.

I started the rough assemble edit the day after we finished the shoot. This was so what was shot was fresh in my mind, especially because I ended up not boarding a lot of it towards the end as we were pushed for time, but also because I was excited to get editing it!

Despite having moved from Premiere Pro to DaVinci Resolve (Adobe’s sub fees are ridiculous), I didn’t find much differentiation between the two and from a technical standpoint, the edit went really smoothly. To be honest, there’s not a large gulf between editing software anyway, it’s all pretty much the same but just with different hotkeys. It felt great to be back editing again especially a narrative piece, something I’ve not done for what feels like (and probably is) years.

I ended up spending a lot more time in the edit than I had originally scheduled for. This was because for some reason, even after multiple script and storyboard drafts, the story just didn’t seem to be working and the pacing was ‘off’. This was confirmed by my feedback process in which I asked several trusted friends/ colleagues for some honest feedback after a draft of the cut.

I decided to ask people who didn’t know the story to take a look to see whether or not my story was coming across. It was an interesting, but exciting process and I had no idea what to expect. I did this feedback stage as it’s something I’ve never previously done (or at least not to this extent) so thought it might be helpful, plus as I’m so wrapped up in the story, it’s hard to know whether the film I’m making translates/ comes across to people seeing it for the first time. It mostly did (phew!), though there were some slight issues echoed throughout a few of the responses- which I knew deep down anyway.

After a couple of breaks (to try and freshen my viewpoint), I redrafted several times. It was hard to get the mix right, but I feel I got there in the end- or at least for now. I think once everything is animated with the backgrounds and music/ SFX etc it might need a few small adjustments. Fun fact: it’s actually quite hard to tell if a story is working from watching a live action cut with none of the animated aspects included!

I’m aware this post has been a long time coming, but hey look, I got here in the end (just like the edit process)!