Wednesday, 29 April 2020

Walks With my Camera

Up until a week or so ago, I've not really been taking my camera out on my daily 'socially distanced' walks. I suppose this is because I feel fairly uninspired when walking similar routes each day, in places I somewhat feel overfamiliar with and have photographed time and time again. As I'm sure you know, I also am really passionate about shooting football and shots of my city somehow didn't seem to be cutting it for me. At least not then.

I took it out one day to try and get some nice images of the floodlights at Deepdale Stadium (Preston North End) and actually really enjoyed being out with my camera again. Yes, it wasn't the same as photographing a ground or game, but it was just as enjoyable in a different way. And yes, it did take something football related to get me started- don't judge!


I then decided to take it on future walks and despite me originally feeling taking shots around Preston was something I didn't want to engage it, I actually got a lot out of my trips. I have always loved the variety of architecture in Preston and what better time to really get my camera to know it when there is next to no one around the town centre? I often feel self conscious taking photographs of buildings (I know I shouldn't, but I still do), because sometimes I feel I get strange looks (in reality I probably don't) and even had comments before along the lines of 'what you taking a picture of that for'? I think the more I'm out and about with my camera taking photographs of the things I enjoy, the more this self consciousness will fade away. I hope.


I also find that to extend my photography to taking images of things other than football, will strengthen my overall photographic skills and make me an all round better photographer. 

Alongside images of architecture, I have been taking some imagery of 'the current times', in terms of signs, social distancing measures and rainbows. I don't often share these on my social media, but take these as some sort of record of this time in our lives. Personally, I find this a quite important thing to do and could be really interesting to look back on in the future.



I too have succumbed to photographing the recent blossom. In these times it's so easy to fall down the negativity route, therefore I find it essential to focus some energy and appreciation towards the positives, however small.

Monday, 20 April 2020

Character Design/ Development Continued

As promised/ threatened in my previous post, I stated I would go into more depth about the character style tests I was working on.

I have now completed (well, mostly: more on that later) all four tests. Some of the results I am pleased with, while some not so, though all of which I will expand on.

I wrote about test #1 in the last post, so I won't dwell on that one in too much detail, but I will say that it still stands out as one of my favourites.



I absolutely love the thick outline and that the whole animation comes across really loose and natural. This is opposite to the realistic style I often work in and it goes to show that if you push your comfort zones, you might surprise yourself and come across something you end up really, really liking. I feel this will be a strong contender for use in the final film.

Test #2 was the least inspired of the four. I used the same style outline which I do in a lot of my work, but for some reason a bit thicker, too?! I was mostly playing with the idea about facial recognition and decided to draw lines across the face, instead of having an actual human face. I still like the concept of what I was going for and there is probably room for further exploration here, but the execution of this piece was not it...



Test #3 was, like the first one, all about loosening up again. Moving away from the 'norm' and really trying to push out into something fresh. This was in terms of both the outline and the colour style. I used the charcoal brush for the outline and repeated the lines a couple of times to emphasise the rough edges. Because the outline was fairly jagged, I decided to colour it in, in one block forcing the focus and attention to the outline. It also really plays well with a film about memory, because it is just going for the shape and basic features of the person, rather than adding unnecessary detail in colour. You might not always remember specifics when recalling a memory, but will usually remember who was there and the basics of their actions.



Lastly, test #4. This one I decided to go all out. How very brave of me! I used a different outline in the way of the airbrush and filled in the character using a textured custom brush. I didn't think the fill was working and it was taking absolutely ages, so decided to colour half of it to give a general impression/ proof of concept. I didn't think it especially meant anything either- or at least not in the context of this new film, so it felt slightly pointless carrying on colouring it, so decided to move onto something else productive instead.

I think I had always wanted to try colouring my work in a different manner, rather than just using the fill tool with no texture or thought, though I feel there are much better (and less time consuming) ways of adding texture to a block of colour. One of these ways could be overlaying a texture in After Effects, once you have completed the standard block colour in TV Paint. I have tried this before and it tends to give a satisfying outcome.

Besides the colouring of the piece, the outline was something I thought might not work that well, but actually appeared fine once completed. I'm not sure whether it would work for this film, but I know I now have it as an option for future projects which might need a more rugged outline.


I decided to leave the faces off all because a) it's for a project about memory and b) to save time: it was to try out styles as a whole, rather than a detailed character account of each.

Overall, I thought completing the task was good for my progression and development in terms of styles. It has opened up my mind to trying new ideas and confirmed whether some styles which I have had in the back of mind to try worked or not. It still frustrates me that they don't all look particularly aesthetically pleasing, but that wasn't the idea of the exercise. I wanted to try new things and forced myself to do so, even though I felt tempted at times to just revert back to what I know. Without sounding at risk for being over dramatic, I am a stronger person (or at least in my craft) for completing this. Here's to experimentation and eschewing comfort zones.

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

Character Design/ Development

A few friends and I are currently in the process of creating a short animation. We are in the early development stages, from synopsis to logistics to visual style. As the lead animator, the latter is what I have been focussing on. I want this film to be the best I have been involved in to date and really want to put a lot of effort and time into developing it, leading to an end result we as a team are proud of.

I have completed a short test piece as proof of concept in terms of visual style (image below), though wanted to delve a little deeper into character design and development. I sometimes have the tendency to revert back to 'default' when drawing my characters in my films and produce them in a fairly standard realistic style.


The aim of these tests were to push me away from that and move in a direction new. I roughed out a few design ideas in my sketchbook and decided to go for the one which seemed most appealing first: bold lines. This one felt fun, flowing and not very restrictive. All good stuff. The result created something really lively:


In fact, I loved the look of this so much that I decided this style would make up the whole of another short film I'm making (I'm a busy person). I have only just finished the first shot (around three seconds) of a total ninety seconds run time. As it is still in its early stages, I won't be sharing too much about it at this time and you know, being a creative genius like myself, I'm very aware that there are people out there stealing my ideas. Always ready to pounce on this blog and see what I'm working on and the like..!

Anyway, here is a screen grab of the outcome:


I aim to complete four character tests by Monday 20th April, so expect an in depth analysis of the outcomes sometime after that date... Until then, keep safe and wash those hands xo

Friday, 10 April 2020

My First YouTube Video

...Well, kind of.

I've been posting on YouTube since around 2011, but only of the films and animations I make. This however, was a more 'vlog' style thing. I use the term very lightly here, mainly because I'm not sure whether what I uploaded was one!

I have been watching quite a lot of various YouTuber's lately to give me more motivation and get me back into creating things again, which worked, so thank you Minnie Small and Lavendaire (amongst others). I got into watching these, because I wanted to find whether there was a channel dedicated to cross stitching. Yes, this no football thing is really getting to me! I couldn't find one which had more than a couple of videos about the subject, but I did find quite a lot of general arts/ sewing/ crafts channels. I felt I could relate to a lot of what was being said, plus I also found a lot of them inspirational and motivational. It put back some drive in me, which I felt like I had been missing for a number of years, due to series of setbacks which I am learning to overcome.

As the creative person I am, I then got the urge to make a video of my own.

Why did I do it?

I'm always looking to try new challenges and push myself in new ways to bring out the best in me. I have a massive lack of self confidence, though fully aware of this and always attempting to combat it in various areas of my life. One of the ways I enjoy endure challenging myself is jumping in at the deep end and seeing how I get out. I have learnt that if you just stick to what you feel safe with, you are never going to progress and grow in your life as much as you will if you push your comfort zones. I have often found that the things that I had been scared to do in the past and then carried out and did them, were never usually as bad as I originally thought and the world didn't end.

So, a video where I am talking to camera about a piece of work I had created would be the next logical step, yes? Apparently so.


What did I learn?

It is *so much harder* than it looks. Like, really. And this is coming from a person who is experienced in film production. I'm so used to being behind the camera, I never consider it from an actors point of view and how off putting a camera and microphone actually are. There was no one besides me in the house when I was creating the video either, but I still found it somewhat embarrassing. I almost gave up at numerous points, even after recording a take with no audio (I record the sound and image separately, as I use an external mic to get the best quality of sound), though on one take I forgot to press record. Face palm. But I carried on, persisted and feel better for having done so.

It also took a lot longer than I originally thought. Mainly in the edit, because I went through it a number of times to get it the best it could be. It is still no way near 'perfect', but doing something is better than not doing something and if you wait until you're ready, then you will most likely keep making excuses and putting it off. You only regret the things that you don't do, am I right?

How can I improve for next time?

I'd like to be able to deliver what I'm saying in a more concise manner, though I know this will come with practise. The more of these I do, the more confidence I will build, which was one of the main aims for making the video in the first place.


The lighting. I feel I could have been lit in a lighter way, as I do look a bit 'shadowy'. I could have boosted the brightness in post, but by then I just wanted to finish with the video and didn't want to dwell on the editing anymore or I most likely would have talked myself out of it!

Better graphics. I think I could have spent a little longer creating more aesthetically pleasing graphics throughout the video. If I'm honest, they were a little bit of an afterthought and I think that it shows. It would have been 'nice' to add some animation in there, but again, I will ensure to implement these in my next one. It felt like the process was dragging on a little, though the more I do, the faster I will get at them.

I no way proclaim this is the best video ever made (clue: it isn't), but it was a fantastic challenge and learning curve, and I am proud of the fact that I went through with my idea and made it. I enjoyed the process too, which is the main thing.

So where can you see the video? Here:

Thursday, 2 April 2020

Elephant Cross Stitch

Well being as cross stitch is all of a sudden my main new hobby, it's only right that I track my progress on this blog, right?!

Since completing the animated horse cross stitch and another quite well developed design (see below), I'm now feeling a little more confident in my ability with these, especially in terms of making my own designs, through to execution. I like to think I know more about what looks 'good' (and what doesn't) on a design. 


 

After completing the one above, I really wanted to develop it a little in terms of creating something in a similar light, but using a more challenging design. This would also make the final outcome less 'basic' and provide me with new challenges along the way. I do like a challenge! What I really liked in the one above was using the full square and the bright colours. These were things I wanted to bring forward into my next project. Tbh I only used the full square to cover up some wrong markings I made for a previous project, but I like it and who needs to know anyway?!

I was doing my usual Google image and Instagram searches for some inspiration to see what sorts of things other people were cross stitching and yep, people are basically cross stitching everything! No help there then... Well it kind of was, as I was then sort of overloaded with inspiration and ideas. Yay! What I really liked though, was the use of patterns people had created behind designs and I wanted to have a go at that myself.

So, I made a repeatable pattern on Photoshop- yes I know you're meant to use illustrator for creating drawings, but Photoshop is basically bae to me so I use that and I don't even care:


The pattern did take some trial and error, but eventually I got there with a pattern that I felt would work for the effect I envisaged. I then created an elephant from this screen grab from an animation I made a while back:




And finally, I added the repeated pattern:


I didn't want to elephant on the final design to be a black silhouette, because I thought it might look a little too plain and simple, which I was really aiming *not* to go for in this design. Instead, I opted for three dark colours to repeat every five lines. I went with black, navy blue and a dark green colour which I'm not sure what the exact name of it is! In my opinion, using these stripes added a little more detail to something which wouldn't have been *that* exciting if it was just one colour.

With the pattern, I wanted it to contrast with the elephant as much as possible, so I used pinks, yellows, reds etc. Sewing the pattern was quite straightforward, though took a lot of time- these full 3x3 inch square ones take a substantial amount of time to create. I do like the size though: I feel they're quite manageable and can be completed across a couple of days, rather than something larger which might take a week or so to complete.

It was difficult choosing colours, because I'm running out of a lot of my threads and needed enough of one colour to last the amount of squares needed to fill for the designated colour. It's hard to tell how much thread you need to complete one section just by looking at it, but the more of these I've been doing, I find it's getting a little easier to estimate. I need to get out more. Oh, wait... My thread box is also a hot crazy mess right now and it super needs sorting. I'd love to get one of those boxes which has separators or drawers in, so each colour of thread can have its own section, ideally labelled too with the number of thread colour. Anyway, being as nothing of those are 'essential' items, they will have to wait until this has passed and it's safe to acquire 'non essential' items again.



This cross stitch did achieve what I wanted it to in terms of creating something more complex. I would like to continue and develop on this going forward as I really liked the way it turned out and already have some inspiration and ideas in how to take it further. If anyone has any questions or suggestions then let me know in the comments!