Monday, 30 November 2020


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:


Co-director & writer:

Co-director & animator:

Sound design:


Special thanks:

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!!