Thursday, 31 December 2020

2020 in Football

2020 wasn’t the year of football myself or many others was expecting back in January, though despite several interruptions and restrictions I was still able to attend some fantastic matches and grounds all the same. I managed to go to 87 games, 86 of those being ‘new’ grounds (the revisit was Cheadle Town for all those wondering).

As a person who loves lists, I have devised some sort of ‘top 10’ of my favourite grounds from this years hopping travels. I find it a nice way to look back and appreciate some of the places I’ve been. It was a genuinely hard list to compile and there were lots of venues I had to leave out to keep it to 10. Of course, like groundhopping itself, this is all arbitrary and I could have instead chosen to do a top 17 or any other random number, but a top 10 seems the most appropriate so here we are!

I have listed them in the order which I visited them.

Ravenhill Park

Brereton Town 1-5 AFC Bentlands
Staffordshire FA Kimberly Cup QF (Sunday League)
12/01/2020

For someone who loves both power stations and grass roots football, Ravenhill Park was a match made in heaven. It’s hard to avoid the eye catching concrete structures in the form of Rugely Power Station, which are still striking despite the bottom halves distorted by an Amazon building. Sadly, these towers are set to be demolished sometime in 2021, so you better be quick if you want to experience football against one of the most exciting backdrops there is. Well, in my opinion anyway!

Full set of photographs here.


Knypersley Sports Club


Staffordshire Victoria Ladies 3-0 Doveridge Ladies

Staffordshire Women’s County League

12/01/2020


While searching for a women’s game we could double up with Ravenhill Park, Knypersley Sports Club in Staffordshire made for the perfect accompaniment. It had a stand at one end, views of the cricket pavilion at another, set amongst fields and topped off with a warm welcome, it was a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.


Full set of photographs here.



Newlandsfield Park


Pollok FC 2-0 Hurlford United

West Region of the Scottish Junior Football Association

18/01/2020


Newlandsfield Park was on my hit list for some time and we finally took advantage of a free weekend in January to visit. The ground was everything I expected it to be and more, with the welcome and hospitality one of the friendliest ever. This will be a day I’ll hold long in my memories.


Full set of photographs here.



Western Lane


Buxworth Reserves 3-2 Railway FC

Hope Valley League A Division

08/02/2020


Craving a ground with views, Western Lane in the High Peak did just that and then some. Not only did it provide me with the views I was yearning, it was hemmed in by a dry stone wall and situated alongside a row of picturesque cottages, it really made a photogenic football setting. 


Full set of photographs here.



Indodrill Stadium


BSC Glasgow 1-4 Hibernian FC

Scottish Cup

09/02/2020


A large grandstand, some terracing (both covered and uncovered) and views of what I assume are the Ochil Hills, this made for a brilliant first game of a double header back in February in the midst of Storm Ciara. Sadly this was one of those grounds I didn’t take my camera to, so all the more reason to return…



Horsfall Stadium


Bradford (Park Avenue) 0-2 Curzon Ashton

National League North

14/03/2030


A little different to my usual idea of what I like in a ground, but perhaps because it was the penultimate match I attended before the first lockdown it holds a special place in my heart. Or maybe I just liked the large seated grandstand, complete with terracing on either side, the friendly welcome and the unique clubhouse.


Full set of photographs here.



Quarry Lane


Cartmel AFC ‘A’ 2-3 Endmoor Reserves

Pre season friendly

17/08/2020


From seeing pictures of this one on Twitter the previous week, I knew this ground would be making this list before I even visited! Set within a quarry and with views out to the sea, this was a great August Monday evening out and a fantastic ground to mark my 300th. It was so special, it even got it’s own blog.


Full set of photographs here.



Bamford Rec


Bamford FC 4-1 Buxworth FC

Pre season friendly

22/08/2020


The Hope Valley League never disappoints for grounds with views and Bamford Rec was no different. This one even included some football furniture in the form of a small wooden stand tucked to one side. Would recommend! 


Full set of photographs here.



Sir Tom Cowie Millfield Ground


Crook Town AFC 0-2 Marske United 

Men’s FA Cup Preliminary Round

12/09/2020


For the limited time travel restrictions were relieved, we took advantage with a trip to the North East to the magnificent Sir Tome Cowie Millfield. One which was on our to do list for a while, I was so pleased we took up the opportunity to attend for this sold out FA Cup fixture. I’ll let the images do the talking, so without further ado you can view those here. 



Park Road


Swarthmoor Social FC 2-1 Bootle AFC

Furness Premier League Premier Division

26/09/2020


After seeing an image of Park Road, I couldn’t get the ground out of my head and knew I just had to visit! I finally put my words into action one weekend and took the train up to Grange-over-Sands, where the ground was a couple miles walk away. Not only did the ground have fantastic views, but also a clubhouse and a compact bus shelter stand. It’s just a shame that there were only 8 or so spectators to enjoy it… 


Full set of photographs here.



That’s it from 2020, hope 2021 brings more football and travel for those that want it and hope to see you at a game when circumstances allow!

Thursday, 17 December 2020

Shadow Play

Being as I seem to be playing with light a fair amount at the moment (see older posts for details), I continued this in my next clip with a slight deviation to exploring shadows. Having never really worked with shadows before, it was a subject I definitely wanted to try out.

I didn’t have an idea what to do going into this mini project, but found a clip I really wanted to animate as I loved the framing and the movement of the character, so I decided to use that as my starting point. Perhaps a bit of a backwards way of working, but I find ideas from lots of different starting points, rather than just the ‘traditional’ or ‘obvious’ ones. I loved how the shadows from what I assume are trees appear across her as she walks and that was something I wanted to replicate.

The original footage

Before getting to the ‘fun part’ though, I needed to rotoscope the character. I wanted to do this differently than a standard outline, so went for a quite chunky brush. I haven’t worked with a thick outline like this for a while, so it seemed like an appropriate time to go back to it. I knew it would work as I have used it previously and as this clip was more about the shadows than the character, I didn’t mind using a style I had used already. Again, to colour her, I used familiar block colours which I know work.


I still had another step before moving on to adding the shadows: the background. I didn’t want a plain background as I wanted to contextualise the character, but I didn’t want to spend hours and hours rotoscoping the footage from the clip, because it wasn’t an exercise in background. I decided to put the background frames through a couple of filters in photoshop, before altering them further in After Effects, where I composited the project. I tried to make them more ‘cartoony’ or animated looking. Looking back, I think this still needs further work as it looks too close to the original footage, but as said I didn’t want this to be a time sucker as it’s not about the background, so just left them without further additions. I think it gives the right impression anyway.


So, now for the fun bit! As always I wasn’t totally sure how to do this when going into it (I bet you can see a familiar theme here, right?!), but I did have an idea. The idea was to draw some shapes which could represent tree shadows (very impressionistic ones):


Ok, yes, I know it just looks pretty random at this point, but stick with me here! I then brought it into After Effects and set the position key frames so it moved from right to left (the opposite way to her walking so it didn’t look like it was following her). I then added some blur, took down the opacity, added a ‘wiggle’ expression and a couple of magnifiers so when the shapes were on her they looked more 3D.

At first, it was a little hard to get the timing right and I ended up having to make the shadow file longer in length (it went from 6000x1080 to 9000x1080), which ended up being the right length for the speed I wanted it to be moving at.


I felt the shadows turned out really nicely and looked quite realistic. They definitely gave me the effect I wanted to create and perhaps turned out a little ‘better’ than what I was expecting. If I require shadows in this context again, I will be sure to use this style. 

Thursday, 10 December 2020

Playing with Fire

In continuation from the last piece, I wanted to continue exploring the visuals of light. I had a lot of fun creating that piece and I think it shows in the result. In true Flora Martyr fashion I didn’t want to replicate what I had already done, because that would be a) pointless and b) boring, so I decided to take some of the aspects and combine them with something new. I always say on here I constantly want to be developing and learning new things, which is true. Once I feel I have ‘mastered’ (probably a too grandiose word, but whateves) a certain style or technique, I like to have that in my ‘bank’ of what I can do knowing I can pull upon it again in the future, but then acknowledge that it’s time to move on for now.

I downloaded a nice piece of footage of someone lighting a match- it made a lovely glow on her fingers when the match was lit. This piece was actually downloaded for the intention of using in the previous piece, but decided against it and to save it for something else. A good decision, I think!

At first I didn’t quite know what to do with it, but then I started scribbling a few ideas down and came up with what I thought was the style I would use. If I can’t think of any ideas, I find noting down or sketching thoughts usually helps develop what I already have. I come up with a lot more ideas when I put pen to paper rather than when I think ‘oh I’ve no idea what to do with this’ and leave it for some ‘inspiration’ to hit. Rarely happens without making it happen. I feel that creativity spawns more creativity, so it’s better to start with something, however small. Anyway, I digress.

Initial sketch
Style frame #1
Style frame #2

Above is my initial sketch on paper with a couple of notes followed by some style frames I created in TVPaint. The second one is the one I decided to go with- well as a starting point, because the final design is a little different.

Being as the previous piece had such a heavy emphasis on colour, I decided to go the opposite way here and drain all but several colours. I did this for a number of reasons: the first being I wanted the match and the light of the match to stand out, but also as a nod to my earlier rotoscope work where I used to use a lot in greyscale for some reason. I also thought using grey for the hands would really bring out the yellow glow (which I think it did).

Roto test (May 2013)

I decided to revert back to using an outline here besides the flame (and smoke). This was to emphasise the flame, but also because fire isn’t a tangible object I thought it would make sense. The outline was a different style to what I usually use when working with an outline- here I used the pencil tool (one I pretty much never use) to give the edges a bit of texture and to test out using an outline style I usually avoid. I did think it worked quite nicely- I really like the sketchiness of it and would definitely use it again if the circumstances allow, but it won’t work for everything. Despite the fact that I coloured the piece quite ‘blocky’ or non-textured, I don’t feel the rough edges look out of place.

When thinking of ways to colour the light reflecting on the hands, I first tried to create them in a textured way. I drew up a number of style frames testing out different brushes and then started shading the light using one of the styles. Below are two of these frames:


About ten or so frames in, I decided the textured way was not the best fit for this piece- I felt it looked ‘weak’ and didn’t have much verve about it. I then changed direction and decided to use a way I did’t even use for any of the style frames, but I just felt it would work better. I used the ‘filled stroke’ (which gives a solid colour) and drew the shapes as they appeared, adding emphasis and exaggeration where appropriate. This way felt much more suited to the piece than any of the texture ideas I was initially considering. It also brought further emphasis to the pencil outline, making it the only textured element in the whole piece.

The result of colouring the light in this way looks somewhat naive, but I quite like the bold effect it has. It won't work in every circumstance and I feel if I’m to use this technique in the future, using it sparingly might be best. I do kind of like the result though and it’s definitely a step forward for me in terms of my development.

This 7 second clip took 20 hours to complete. Usually hands take a lot quicker (I do hands a lot), but I think because of the fact that I used a textured outline with multiple stokes, along with adding some highlights and colour, it took a little longer than it usually might have. I think each style takes as long as it needs to take and there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ regarding completion time. Or at least not at the moment where I have no external pressures of deadlines etc and I can really spend time creating work.

Sunday, 6 December 2020

It's Back (Again)!!

After a second forced break this year for spectators (and 'non elite' teams), football is now back! We headed to Trimpell Sports and Social Club to witness Trimpell and Bare Rangers Reserves 3-0 Bolton-le-Sands FC in the North Lancs League Premier Division. You can view the full set of photographs here.








Sunday, 29 November 2020

Smoking

As stated in my previous post, I said I may try out more animation styles in the next few weeks. Well, that 'may' turned into an action and here we are with yet another style test. It's a good 'un though, so stay tuned!


The idea I wrote down for this one was a black and white 'comic' style: think classic Marvel etc., with all the nice (technical term) inking. I’ve never been into superhero comics (please don’t hate me), but I have always loved the artwork. In my quest to find a clip on my favourite stock site Pexels (totes not sponsored by them yet hint hint) which had enough lighting differentiation to enable me to get a really good shadow contrast, I came across this clip of a couple:



…And thought this kind of lighting is wayyyy cooler than boring black and white (so nineteenth century). I could have still done it in black and white as there is plenty of light/ dark contrast in the clip, but I couldn't help but want to try playing with colour- I just loved how the reds and blues looked and thought it would make for really interesting animation. I focussed on just the one of the characters for this (the one sitting up)- the guy lying down didn't have much colour contrast, plus he is a little out of focus. Also, doing two characters takes double the time: this three second clip took 22 hours. Though this clip of just someone's face took much, much longer. More on that shortly.


Before animating, I created a couple of rough style frames to see if this would work:


Style frame #1

Style frame #2

Off the back of these I decided it would work, but with a few tweaks. I went with the second of the two, the one where I added a layer of dark blues. I felt it really brought out his facial features and made the clip more interesting to look at. As the style frames were kind of rough, I went more detailed in the final outcome and added a few more colour layers, too which you’ll see shortly. This further enhanced the detail.


In the style frames I still hadn't worked out how I was going to draw the cigarette either hence the blank space, but in the final animation I settled on a way. Sometimes when I’m animating I find it becomes easier to solve issues I might have when starting the piece. I do like to plan out each shot beforehand, but if I have the majority resolved though a few bits I can’t figure out, the process of animating usually solves those for me. Maybe that’s an odd way of doing things, but it works for me!


After 8 hours

After 22 hours

The above images are screen shots of it at various stages of animating: the first after 8 hours, the second after 22 hours. As usual, I use ‘strange’ colours to draw the clip and change them at the end. This is so they contrast with the colours on screen and show up nicely, making the animation process easier. I put everything on separate layers, so switching colours is easy.


Like I mentioned earlier, this style took really, really long. For the five second duration, it took 32 hours. I think this was because the sheer amount of detail involved and the fact that I drew every shadow and highlight. I usually draw outlines and then block colour after. For some reason I thought this might take quicker that my normal style(?), yeah I have no idea why, but perhaps because I wasn’t using an outline. How naive! You’d have thought that after nine years of roto-ing I still wouldn’t be underestimating the completion time. But to give me credit, this was a style I had never used before so I didn’t really know what to expect.


I love how I really went in and experimented with this clip and it doesn’t look like any of my other work. I always say that the idea of carrying out tests such as these is so I can develop different styles and push my animation further and for this clip, I achieved exactly that. I honestly don’t think there is anything I would do differently either if I used this style again and I absolutely adore how it turned out. It looked better than I thought it might do and it would be great to do another clip in a similar manner.


Watch the clip below:


Wednesday, 18 November 2020

Background Test

Every now and again I get the urge to try a rotoscope idea that just pops into my head. Normal, I know. And yes, this is one of them. I've been working for several months now on one project- a self-funded no budget short animation which I touched on in this post. As the project is just for me, well I mean I would love the world to see it when it is finished, but I mean it's not a commissioned piece or anything like that so there is no exterior deadline or pressure (just my self inflicted arbitrary goals). Despite this being a mostly great way of working there are negatives, the main one being no money!

While working on this for a long period, I kept thinking of other ideas of styles I'd like to try which I can't implement in the project I'm working on because I want the look to be consistent. Of course I write these down, but there's only so long they can be kept in one of my notebooks before leaping off the page and onto my Wacom Tablet and into TVPaint. As I'm working on a personal project it gave me the flexibility to pause on that and try something different. I did hold off for a while actually before exploring a new idea (despite being desperate to try), because I wanted to get it to a good place I felt that I could stop at. I feel I need a little break from it now to work out where it is going next anyway. So I may try out a few more ideas in the next few weeks or so, but we'll see...

The idea I wanted to explore was an animation with a specific kind of background. My backgrounds are often quite abstract, or at least for the project I'm working on currently and I really felt like creating something slightly more realistic. Saying that, I still wanted to keep it quite abstract, but not totally. For some reason I felt like doing an exterior shot involving buildings. Below is a still of the footage I downloaded from Pexels


Oh hey stock footage woman! I chose this shot mainly for the architecture and the fact that it was a nice clear piece of footage. I also wanted a camera move in there as I wanted a shot with some motion. The idea I had was to create the backgrounds out of basic shapes using the 'filled stroke' tool in TVP. This meant there would be no outlines and would therefore contrast with the foreground animation. You can view the clip below:


I like this way of creating a background, but one of the main negatives is how labour intensive it is with the camera move. It means drawing every shape multiple times. Not that I'm afraid of the effort (if that was the case I doubt I'd be working 8 hours a day under my own steam), but it feels there should be (or could be) a faster way of doing it. It would add on weeks or months if I were creating a full film in this way.

I went quite simplistic on the buildings on purpose, as I wanted to give more of an impression of them as opposed to a super accurate or photorealistic depiction. This was so the foreground character stood out, while providing a sense of the surroundings. I feel I achieved this well, but I think the buildings might have looked 'better' with slightly less blur. I also wanted more of a distinction between the building in the foreground (the one with all the windows) and the ones in the background. I left out a lot of detail from the buildings further away along with lightening the colours so they look more 'distant'. I feel I could have pushed this further- either by adding more detail to the foreground building, lightening the background buildings more or playing with the blur parameters so that each building has a clear step of blur depending how close to the camera it is.

This is definitely a style I would like to explore further as I don't think it is quite 'there' yet. I feel like several more tests should get it looking closer to what I was aiming for.

Wednesday, 11 November 2020

Nothing New (Again)

Back in May this year I wrote a post about my short animation 'Nothing New' (which I co-directed with Alan Livesey) to say that we cut together a short teaser trailer for it. Well, now you can watch the full thing! I won't repeat myself in this entry, but if you do want to know more details about the project then please check out that post.

Full credits:

Caller:
JANELLE THOMPSON

Co-director & writer:
ALAN LIVESEY

Co-director & animator:
FLORA MARTYR

Sound design:
ADAM DOBSON

Score:
JASON WILLIAMS

Special thanks:
STEPHEN PLACE

You can watch the film below.

Friday, 6 November 2020

Meet the Preston Artists

The Harris Museum and Art Gallery Preston commissioned myself and several other Preston based artists to create a video for either their 'Meet the Artist' or 'Preston Talk' series. I did an artist talk, where I take you through the process of how I create rotoscope animation. You can watch it below:


The videos are being premiered every Monday and Thursday at 7pm on the Facebook page, as well as being permanently added to their YouTube channel. There's some really interesting subjects being covered, so definitely go check them out if you need something to watch during lockdown!

Tuesday, 3 November 2020

Online Film Festivities!

October was a super busy month for me in terms of attending online film/ animation festivals. I attended three in the space of around five weeks! In the last few years I haven’t been as active in attending film festivals mainly due to lack of money (transport, accommodation, festival pass, food etc all adds up), but also due to ‘wimping out’ or talking myself out of attending for various reasons. Though attending these festivals online was a gentle way of reintroducing myself back into the film festival routine. I actually can’t wait to attend one in real life now and really hope it won’t be too long before this can be done…


As attending an online festival was something new for me, I have decided to write my initial thoughts on what I experienced during October. The festivals I ‘went to’ were Encounters, Factual Animation Film Festival (FAFF) and Cardiff Animation Festival (CAF). The reason I chose to attend these ones were because I not only had a couple of my films screening at them, but also because they are amazing festivals. I went to the first CAF back in March 2018 and I had an absolutely amazing time! I never got the opportunity to go to Encounters or FAFF before, but I had always wanted to and due to them being online this year I finally could.


They were all quite different, but equally enjoyable. I guess because they were all online I didn’t think that they would differ that much but they really did, like ‘real life’ festivals do. I mean the premise is the same: you watch lots of films, you talk about said films and you watch filmmakers talk about films, but how each festival went about executing this was different.


Encounters was the longest, lasting for three weeks, while both FAFF and CAF ran for one week. Three weeks was the suitable amount of time for Encounters due to its vast programme of films, though one week was perfect for FAFF as there were twenty films screening. I felt CAF could have run for a little longer, because I didn’t feel it gave quite the time necessary to get to watch everything- well I say this, but I did manage to watch everything I wanted to(!), though I did feel a little pushed for time whilst doing so. I think (or at least for me) I am less likely to take time off to attend a virtual event rather than a physical one, so I felt additional time would be needed so you can fit the festival around your usual schedule.


CAF and Encounters had live events integrated within the festivals which was fantastic, because it made it feel more festival-like rather than just you at your computer watching films. CAF also had a chat function available for all the live events which was a welcome feature, because you could chat to other festival goers and animators (almost like the good old days)! Again, both Encounters and CAF had a variety of filmmaker (Zoom) Q+A’s. This was great, because not only are festivals good for watching films, but also to get to know about the processes behind the films and contextualising the content that you’re watching. I participated in the Skwigly Animator’s Brunch Q+A at CAF along with eight other animators, which was a really enjoyable experience (albeit slightly nerve-wracking at first)!


FAFF did have filmmaker interviews, but hosted them as an addition to the festival in terms of using them in the lead up to as promotion for it on their social channels. That also meant they were free and accessible to everyone to watch, whether you had a festival pass or not. They might have also encouraged people to purchase a pass. You can watch mine below. Of course I go on about how much I love roto ♡



All three festivals had a great line up of films in terms of quality and variation in story and techniques. I came away from each festival super inspired. For me, a sign of a great festival is one which creates that spark within you. I wasn’t sure whether this could be done through an online platform, so thank you to all festivals for being able too create this!


I suppose the main negative which was a constant across all three (well apart from not being able to watch films on a big screen or dodgy internet connections for Zoom interviews) was the whole festival vibe was lacking from the online version, a sentiment that was echoed amongst the filmmakers throughout the Q+A's. The opportunities to meet other filmmakers were absent, which when at a real life festival are the things which really makes it worth while. I, like many others, love getting the chance to meet likeminded people- it could lead to friendships and collaborations further down the line. Especially being an animator where you're stuck in a darkened room staring at a screen for what seems like hundreds of hours at a time (and usually is just that!), it's really nice to get out of that bubble once in a while and meet similar people. Yes, even we animators don't mind human contact every so often! It also gives a nice closure to that project if your film is selected for screening, rather than it disappear into the YouTube/ Vimeo ether like it so often does.


The Skwigly Q+A at CAF


Despite the above, having the festival online did make it extremely accessible for those unable to get to attend in person, whether this be because of disability, financial reasons, too busy or any other issue. All the online films had options for closed captions and the festival passes were extremely affordable. Perhaps the future is a hybrid? I think this would be the perfect combination to include everyone in attending the festival. I hope this is what we might be seeing more of in the future, due to the accessibility of an online festival being a huge advantage…


With the time given for each festival to transverse to a different medium, each did a wonderful job. As already stated, I am longing to attend one of these ‘in person’, but at the moment that is not possible and I would like to take this moment to thank all of the festivals for putting on brilliant events in such circumstances.


Sorry this post is so wordy- I probably put more effort into writing this than my English Language A-Level back in the day! Anyway, the next one should be more visual- I hope!!