Thursday, 30 December 2021


My latest animation. Used a simplified comic book kind of style for this one, as opposed to the more complex style I used here, though I did add an extra shading layer on his skin. Despite it being fairly minimal I do quite like the effect, but I don't think it's a style I'll be using in a long form project. Or at least not for now..! She says.

Outlines drawn in TVPaint, everything else in EbSynth. Probably my last blog of 2021 (though making no promises!) so if that's the case, see you next year! Have fun, stay safe and all that xo

Monday, 20 December 2021

I Love Callipeg

Title of this post to be sung to the tune of The Weakerthans, ‘One Great City!’, replacing the ‘I hate Winnipeg’ line. Basically.

Singing aside (not often how I start these posts, but Xmas cheer and all that), I full on caved in and treated myself to an iPad and Apple Pencil (1st gen). Not the iPad Pro mind (unfortunately they didn’t accept exposure /s), but the standard 10.2” 2021 edition which is currently at £319 (a pretty reasonable price IMO).

OK, so a bit of backstory here: I’ve been wanting to be able to animate remotely for a while as I often feel pretty trapped at my desk at home without a portable computer, so if I want to animate (like I do 99% of the time), then I have to go to my desk and are only able to work there. I can’t even animate in a different warmer room in my house, let alone on holiday/ travelling, on weekends away, coffee shops and other such locations. For a while, I’ve been trying to come up with a solution for a portable set up, to enable me to at least do some of the work whilst out and about and the finishing/ fine tuning and comping whilst home.

But, I wasn’t really able to find a suitable solution or animation app which would match TVPaint. Until, I finally found my solution: enter Callipeg. Fanfare please! Callipeg is a fairly new animation app on the scene (conceived 2020) which was built/ developed especially for iPad (all versions with iPadOS 13 or later) and Apple Pencil (both generations). The team behind it are all animators/ work in the animation industry and this knowledge is evident in the UI and usability of the app. As a professional animator myself, I can hardly fault it (especially knowing it’s still in development).

I’ve never animated on anything else beside a Mac/ MacBook, so I was pretty apprehensive going in. I mean all the videos I watched prior to purchasing my iPad made Callipeg look/ sound excellent, but I kind of thought there was something too good to be true about it (maybe I’m a pessimist)! Though there was something about it which I thought, what if it is as good as it sounded, so the iPad was purchased and the app was subsequently downloaded. As soon as I opened Callipeg, I was in love. It was perfect for what I wanted it for.

Here are some of my favourite features:
  • The choice of brushes/ brush options and the fact that there was a ‘fill brush’ setting.
  • The exporting: selecting ‘export with structure’ on the PNG option meant it created a new folder for each layer, rather than needing to do them separately. Please never remove this feature!!
  • The interface- really easy to navigate and loved the frame forward/ backward buttons on the side panel- meaning I don’t need to keep going to the timeline to move forward a frame.
  • Being able to make colour palettes for each project pretty easily.
  • The ease of importing video layers.

I could go on…

Now being a bit picky, I’ll list some things I would have liked to have included:
  • Firstly, an adjustment layer/ effect layer where you can change the colour of a layer by selecting all the frames. It would be so useful for adjusting colour choices near the end of the animation if something doesn’t quite look right, rather than having to go in and change them frame by frame. This is me being picky though, because I always had in mind to finalise the shots in TVPaint, which does allow me to do that.
  • Another feature I wouldn’t mind seeing added would be an option when using the selection tool to delete what is inside the selection.
  • Finally, the addition of clipping masks would be fantastic! These would be super useful, especially when shading.

Though if you check out their roadmap, you can see what they’re working on to add in the future, which I can see some of these features are. Also, their website has a comprehensive user guide in both written and video format, which was great for learning the app.

I also want to say that wow how good are iPads for drawing?! I have been using a trusty Wacom tablet (one without a screen) for all my animating since 2011. I thought having a tablet with a screen wouldn’t really make any difference, so never entertained using anything else before. But seriously, being able to draw directly onto a screen makes such a difference. It feels a lot more like drawing on paper, a feel I never had while using my Wacom. I honestly feel like this is such as game changer for my work. I can produce everything a lot quicker and create the brush strokes I actually want to create. I half wish I had bought an iPad Pro instead, if I knew I was going to like it this much! Next time, eh…

If anyone is unsure whether to get the app, I’d say just go for it. As far as my knowledge goes, it’s the best animation app available on iPad and I’ve not regretted it since. I'll be using it for my upcoming short film.

Below is the first clip I created on Callipeg. I finished it in TVPaint (changing the colours and adding the gradient background). It took 10 hours in total, for 61 frames, full coloured/ shaded- which I think is fairly quick... 

Friday, 17 December 2021

The Script

As I’ve mentioned a couple of times in this blog already, I’m making an animated short film. It's something I've wanted to do for a long time, so while 'in between jobs', I've decided to just go for it. The film is called ‘Bear’ and is a short drama about a factory worker who has a bear head instead of a human head (the only plot details you’re getting for now) and of course, it’ll all be rotoscoped. I’ll be blogging about the process throughout- just see the tag ‘Animated Short’ on the sidebar for all the posts related to this.

So, after dusting off Celtx (yep, still use it), numerous outlines and script drafts later, I have a final version which I am extremely happy with and can’t wait to get filming/ animating.

I haven’t written a script for a short film for a number of years- I think 2013 was the last time I attempted to do so whilst at university. My films since then have either been music videos, documentaries, experimental ‘art’ films, collaborations with writers or poetry films- ones which didn’t need a script, or at least not in the traditional sense. So going into this, I was, as you’d expect, fairly apprehensive.

Being something I’ve not done previously a lot of, I felt I needed a strong dose of validation as to whether it was actually ‘good’- subjective I know, but it terms of whether it reads well and if the story makes sense. One way of getting my head into the ‘short film way of thinking’ (I’ve literally just made that term up) whilst writing was to watch a short film every day, which I have done (and continue to do so) since around October. I watch a lot of features, but only tended to watch short films when at a film festival. Short films are a world away from features in terms of structure and so on, so I find watching a short even day a really good practise. I watch a mix of live action, animation and experimental, so I see a wide array of storytelling ideas and techniques. Watching these has kind of helped towards me 'self validating' my work and whether it could fit alongside any of the shorts I have watched.  

My idea evolved from a dream I had and came together quite naturally after that. Though I would say it did take a while to mould the story into something more ‘whole’. Due to my previous experience of writing, I thought that I would be more tentative to edit my film after the first draft/ outline, but I was quite the opposite. I didn’t have much attachment to any of it, because I knew that if I wanted to make it the best film I could, then I would need to be ruthless and I was exactly that. Every edit I made was with intent of making the story stronger, rather than holding onto a shot I liked the look or idea of.

I think this shows a really nice progression in myself as a filmmaker/ director/ writer (whatever you call it), because several years ago I would have likely held onto it as much as possible and be hesitant to go past a couple of drafts. For this, I did 9 script drafts and a ton of outlines before the actual scripting stage. I expect there will be more iterations too going forward, especially after the storyboarding of it (which is next).

Another thing I did was ask for help! I asked my experienced writer friend and collaborator Alan Livesey to read through a few of the versions and provide me with notes on where the story can be improved. I listened and incorporated a lot of these into the final draft and I have him to thank for making it a stronger piece. Again, this echoes the previous paragraph in terms of my self development- I would never have done this before, or if I did, I probably wouldn't have listened or incorporated any of the feedback- probably would just have taken it personally instead.

I really enjoyed the scriptwriting process- it was like a fun puzzle to put together/ solve. At times, tricky, yes, but still a task I thoroughly relished. I liked piecing together the missing parts (from my original outline) and looping plot points back to each other and so on. It’s something I want to do a lot more of- including writing a feature film, which has been a goal of mine for as long as I can remember...

See you in the next one, stay safe and all that xo 

Monday, 13 December 2021

Ice Hockey

For this, I wanted to make something completely different than my previous piece and do something aside from working towards what could potentially be a style test for the short film I’m making. I wanted to have a bit of fun with it too, so I found a clip I liked the look of, of someone playing ice hockey.

As an avid sports fan, I like doing clips related to the topic, plus I always think that rotoscope lends itself really well to sports (especially skateboarding)! Fun fact: I have only ever watched one ice hockey game IRL- though I did really enjoy myself and definitely want to do it again. Ice hockey over here in the UK is a fairly niche sport, which is probably the reason I’ve never really caught on to it, unlike say football and cricket which I watch a lot of.

With this piece, I used a continuous outline, rather than the pressure sensitive ones I use most often. I’ve not really ever explored this look before, despite being fairly Julian Opie-esque (one of my favourite artists). I do like the thick outline as it gave a really bold effect, though I think I might like to see it used in a way which is on a person who isn’t playing sport, to see if it could actually translate into any of my films (I know I said earlier that this wasn’t a potential style test, though I guess I was wrong)! So, perhaps more of this style to follow…

Anyway, I’ll leave it at that for this post as I’ve been fairly wordy on here recently, with several more lined up (aren’t you lucky). Until then, stay safe and hydrated and see you in the next one!

Thursday, 9 December 2021

EbSynth- Latest

It definitely feels like I’m back in the swing of things after the blip I alluded to in one of recent posts. It feels great to be making work for the fun of it again and I’m really finding joy in doing so.

For this one, I wanted to use EbSynth again with the purpose of seeing how long a clip might take from outlines to completion: full coloured and shaded etc. This was with intention of the short film ‘BEAR’ I’m making (more on that in a few posts time) to gauge how long it might take.

When using EbSynth before in my own pieces, I have always used it in a slightly experimental manner, mainly by using analogue materials. Though this time, I wanted to use it in a more ‘normal’ way and create the look of the piece digitally in a less experimental style. This was for a number of reasons- firstly to prove to myself that I can (in terms of creating something more ‘tidy’ or ‘grounded’ perhaps, rather than aways working experimentally), secondly as a time saving device (the analogue ones take longer as you have to scan them in) and thirdly to try something I’ve not tried before.

The EbSynth/ rotoscope process is quite a lengthy one, but when you get it right the results are great (IMO) and you do save a lot of time. Say, if I were to do the colouring and shading of this piece frame by frame in the style I had chosen, I’d probably still be working on it.

Due to several failed attempts of using EbSynth to create outlines, I have decided that I will do those frame by frame, leaving EbSynth purely for colouring and shading my work. I have decided this, because from my experience, using it in this manner works a lot better for the effect I want to create. Personally, I like my work to be neat/ clean and I dislike the amount of smudges/ blurs/ deformities which come when using EbSynth to create the full piece (including outlines). Plus, even if it didn’t blur or go wrong in that respect, I found it gave off a real ‘uncanny valley’ vibe, which isn’t the kind of thing I want to go for in my work. Whereas when doing the outlines by hand and using EbSynth as a shading tool, it gives a more natural look.

Using it in this way still speeds up the process and allows me to shade/ colour the characters in a way which might have previously added on hours. As I’m very practised at creating roto outlines due to my experience with doing so, I don’t find those take all that long anyway. Plus I love the process (means I get to listen to music and podcasts all day, yet still being able to create something)! Win win situation. And it’s also pretty relaxing.

For this clip, I went onto my go-to free stock footage site, Pexels (still not sponsored by them) to choose my piece of footage. I selected this video of a woman in a supermarket. I really liked the aesthetic of it, plus thought I could create something cool with it.

I always start by creating the outlines- these took just over 12 hours to complete. The clip was 55 frames long (I work at 12fps), so if my maths is correct I make it a 4.6 second clip. I don’t feel that is especially excessive- meaning I can probably complete just under 20 seconds of outlines a week. Obviously varies depending on shot size/ amount of detail/ characters in each shot.

Then it was time for the fun bit- creating the styleframe. I already had quite a strong idea of the look I wanted to go for going in to this clip, so I only did one styleframe and went with that straight away. I had in mind to do a sort of comic book/ graphic novel kind of style- clean colour blocks etc. This is what I came up with:

When EbSynth was working its magic, I made the background. To be honest, I was just kind of messing around with the mechanical pencil tool in TVPaint- a brush I’ve never really taken advantage of before. I just kind of started roughing out shapes in a pretty scribbly manner. It was never meant to be the background I actually used, but I really liked the contrast it created against the full coloured character.

Once EbSynth had finished, there was a fair amount of touch up to do. It doesn’t always create the cleanest results, especially when there is movement in the shot, so there are usually bits which need correcting. Obviously this is all cosmetic and it really does depend what style you're going for and whether you think the minute details matter. I guess you just need to figure out what’s important to what you’re wanting to go for in your work.

I must admit that I’m a little bit of a perfectionist when it comes to this kind of thing, so the touch up took around 2.5 hours. Which thinking about it, for a 4.6 second clip, was probably a little too extreme. Maybe I need to work on toning this down a bit for when I make my short film- or it’ll take a lot longer for me to finish than I intend!

In conclusion, I feel like I achieved what I set out to do (and at a high standard). I proved to myself I could create a clip in this manner and not always be super experimental with what I make. I do actually really like the look here and it will be a way of working I’ll continue to develop.

Here’s the result:

Wednesday, 8 December 2021

Selected- Austin Arthouse Film Festival!

I'm delighted to announce that my experimental film, '04111311' has been selected for screening at this years Austin Arthouse Film Festival!

Due to Covid the festival is online this year, running from 26th-30th December (a great way to fill that void between Xmas and NYE, right)? For more info and to get your tickets, head here.

It'll also be the first public screening of my film, which is super exciting too! Hope to [virtually] see you there.


Sunday, 5 December 2021

Spotify Top Artists

The moment you've all been waiting for... Right?!

So these lot are what keeps me company most while animating. Quite varied I guess and no, the addition of Ed Sheeran is no mistake- he's been one of my faves since his first single 'The A Team' way back when so don't @ me!

Friday, 26 November 2021

Doughnut Disturb

I definitely feel like I'm stepping up my pun game with these blog titles 😂

Recently, I decided to learn Blender.

This was because, as regular readers of this blog may know, that I’m always striving to learn new things and improve my skillset, especially when it comes to animation. One of the main pulls for doing this though, was because it would massively help when creating backgrounds for my 2D animations- in terms of perspective, lighting and layout etc. Especially when mine are rotoscoped and lots of the backgrounds will needs to be made from scratch afterwards if I film in a studio.

With it being an open source software, I decided to just go for it- it has been in the back of mind for a while, but never went for it until now. I, like many, started with the Blender Guru’s infamous doughnut tutorial. It was a thorough and detailed course, perfect for beginners like myself.

I wasn’t sure if before starting the course, I would be able to complete it or it would look terrible or something, but how wrong I was! If there are any experienced CG people on this blog seeing the images- I expect you think it probably still looks very amateur (and I expect it does), though from a viewpoint of a complete newbie, I am really pleased with it.

I was a bit nervous at first, due to being so use to 2D programs, so was kind of afraid to touch anything at first incase it went wrong(!), though by the end, I not only had a doughnut I am quite proud of, but also a small animation to accompany it (see below). Yes, in true Flora Martyr fashion, I decided to go a bit further and have a play with the key frames to move the light around. After all, the animation side of things is partly why I decided to learn Blender in the first place.

I loved seeing the progression as the tutorial went along- kind of how it went from essentially a mesh circle, to something which looked kind of edible, and everything in between!

I'm really excited about learning this program- the things you can do with it are quite fascinating. I understand it'll take some time to get to the place where I want to be with it, though it's definitely a journey I'm willing to take... 

Here’s the doughnut animated:

Thursday, 25 November 2021

Ooh Look Mum I'm Famous!

This month, several of my photographs from my visit to Reeth Athletic AFC back in June, alongside some of my words about the trip, were featured in the fantastic Turnstiles Magazine. With it being an independent, super creative football publication, I was delighted to have contributed to it and support it by doing so. Football is far greater than the money infused Premier League and this magazine sheds light on many aspects of the game, right from the top tiers, to teams such as Reeth Athletic, which you might have never heard of until now!

It was also quite apt that I was featured in this one, being it the 'Yorkshire edition', because (fun fact) I was actually born in York!

Anyway, go grab yourselves a copy- you won't regret it...

Monday, 22 November 2021

New Clip (At Last)!

I finished my first full time animation gig on a feature at the beginning of October. Not that I didn’t enjoy the project (I did ENORMOUSLY- it was one of my best work related experiences up to this point), but I was looking forward to it finishing because it meant that I could start work on my own projects again- something I didn’t have an awful lot of time for during the production (I didn’t want to do too much more animating on evenings/ weekends as was cautious about burning out). Despite this, it took me a while to get going with this next piece.

I think it was a mixture of several things, such as firstly it felt a bit pointless/ directionless. Before working on the feature, I had been perfectly content with creating these ‘test’/ portfolio pieces, which I did in aid of enhancing my techniques, developing my style and experimenting with different ways of creating rotoscoped works. Though since stopping the feature (or at least in the first couple of weeks), it just felt pointless, because it felt that I was no longer working towards anything- I had basically achieved what I had always wanted to do up to that point and it felt like, ‘okay so I guess I made it, now what’.

Another reason was, because it felt like I needed to be creating my ‘best work ever’, or that this first piece ‘back’ so to speak needed to be the best thing I’ve made, especially after having worked on a feature. This, of course, put on an enormous amount of unnecessary self inflicted pressure, which also hampered me from carrying through a piece unless I knew it was going to turn out ‘perfect’. After a strict word with myself(!), I decided that this was nonsense and I needed to get back to creating work just for the fun of it, which is why I do what I do in the first place!

I decided to alleviate any pressure and just create a piece of work which I was to finish. Finishing is very important, because it shows you can carry something through. Sometimes I admittedly am not very good at, usually because of the high standards I put on myself, though it’s something I’m working to improve.

I chose a piece of footage which would allow me to experiment on, something which felt quite freeing/ loose and could have some fun with:

I selected this clip of a busy street (from the free stock footage site Pexels) as it ticked all the right boxes. At times, when animating, it did feel a bit of a slog and took a while to work up to working full days again. But suppose I did need a break as I was working super intensely for the best part of the year. It took a fair bit longer than what I would have liked/ hoped. Not that it matters anyway- it’s all arbitrary! 

First, I made a styleframe to test out several styles, but opted for the one with plain block colours as I knew that I’ve not really worked in that manner before (I often use outlines), so knew it would be a great clip to loosen me up with and do something slightly different. I also thought the bright, bold colour blocks would look really effective.

I used the filled stroke tool to block out each section of the character, such as hair, skin, trousers etc, all in my trademark bright colours (I change them to more realistic later- I use colours which contrast well with the footage or I won’t be able to see what I’m doing if the colour I’m using is too similar to the reference). Another way I could have done it would be to use a brush outline and later fill in via CTG. I decided against this, because I most likely would have been tempted to use the outline after all! Plus it would have taken longer.

Before recolouring the characters

Several days, hours of music and podcasts listened later, the first stage of my clip was complete. Yay! It was now time to add the texture. I know I didn’t do this in the initial styleframe, but while I was animating, I thought I wanted to give the clip a little extra something. So decided to liven up the whole thing with some hand-made grain. I just wanted to make it feel a little more ‘busy’. I did this by using one of the brushes under the ‘dirty shadows’ section and created five frames filling the whole screen and then repeated them the length of the clip. I then silhouetted the character out of the grainy footage and used the blend modes and reduced opacity to merge it with the characters. Again, there are plenty of ways to created such an effect, but I decided to do it this way!

I toyed with adding cast shadows and shading, but decided against it as I knew if I kept adding and adding things, I’d never move on from this piece and spend another week or more altering it, taking away time I could spend on another piece. I had already achieved what I wanted to, so why keep adding to it?

For the background, I just kept it super simple, by creating a water colour effect using the water colour brushes in TVPaint. I didn’t want the background to be pure white, but I didn’t want to clutter it either, conscious of not wanting to take the attention away from the characters. After a little trial and error, the water colour style background suited it best.

The whole thing took a whopping 82 hours, which initially sounds a lot, but considering it being a 16 second clip with 12 characters, plus also counting the time it took for me to create the textures and to colour change each character, it was actually a quite quick clip (wow, that’s hard to say out loud) to create.

So, what do I think? I do really like it: I think the colour block characters are very effective and it was definitely the kind of thing I was aiming for. I would say I would have liked a few more characters, but then there’s the whole ‘where do I stop’ thing and I feel for a test piece such as this, I had populated it enough to sort of ‘prove’ my experiment, if you like.

See you in the next one, oh yeah, and here’s the clip:

Saturday, 23 October 2021

Returning to Pitchside

In the last couple of months or so, I’ve unfortunately not been all that active on the photography front. I had still been going to games, but as a spectator, rather than as a photographer. This has been down to a number of reasons (time or lack thereof so wouldn't be able to keep up with the editing, weather [starting to get a lot colder/ rainy-er] and a couple of other things of which I won’t go into), so it was nice to finally be able to have a weekend where I had set up two pitchside opportunities for myself.

One was a (men’s) Vanarama National League game, the other was a Women’s Super League game. I thought after a fairly long break that the photo’s would come out terrible, but I was actually really pleased with both sets.

The editing took longer than usual though- I edited both sets over the course of several days as I found it easier editing in bitesize chunks, rather than the daunting prospect of doing them all in one go. Hopefully this won’t be the case every week, but at least I got them done, right?!

Another sports photographer I know, going by the name of Onion Bag photography happened to be at the same WSL game on the Sunday and snapped this one of me. I love this picture and it’s nice to have a high quality image of me doing what I do (finally)!

Below are some from Stockport County 1-0 Aldershot Town FC. You can view that full set HERE.

And below those are the images from West Ham United Women 1-1 Birmingham City Women. The full set can be seen HERE.

Hopefully full sets will now be a weekly thing, so do keep an eye on my Flickr and Twitter for further uploads...

Wednesday, 20 October 2021

Horsing Around

As I had quite a few blank horse templates left over from my animation workshop I hosted back in early September, I decided to have a bit of fun with them.

There was one frame I did as an example for the workshop (I made some as examples to help people get inspiration) which I really liked and wanted to know how it might look if I did it for all twelve frames of the sequence:

It's a pattern I use quite a lot whenever I need to do things which involve a pattern- I am aware it's fairly time consuming, but I think it makes a pretty cool effect. You can click the above to make the image bigger, but in essence, it's thick, straight lines making a random several sided shapes, each filled in with thinner straight lines which follow the direction of one of the sides of the shape. I don't know how much sense that description makes, but not sure how else to describe it!

Anyway, I created the piece across a number of days, as doing lots of these in a row was quite hard going! I do love the end result and can assure you it was worth the time and effort, or at least for me it was. I really like how the shapes move within the horse, giving the piece some depth and movement. It was the effect I was after.

This was kind of a 'filler' piece while I work on a couple of other more 'serious' things- well, some rotoscoped pieces and also a short (animated) film which I'm writing/ directing- though more on that soon...

Here's the horse in motion:

Sunday, 10 October 2021

Fly on the Wall

My most recent piece of embroidery. This was using one of the free DMC patterns- they have loads of cool designs on their website you can download and print off.

I wanted to try something more complex and more detailed (and bigger) than I've ever done before and I feel I satisfied that in making this piece. It was the first time of using long and short stitch, too. At first, I didn't feel it was working very well and I nearly gave up (what was I even thinking), but I made myself persist and I was actually really happy with the result. And WILL be using that stitch again! I legit need to get over the 'oh, it's not looking perfect right now, so I should stop' frame of mind, especially when I'm only half way (or not even that sometimes) through a piece. I do this with my animation all the time, too! I'd say it's better to finish a piece and it not be quite as perfect as you've imagined (it's usually better than you expect anyway), than have loads of unfinished pieces incase they don't end up 'perfect'. Must remember this going forward...

I'd say it's probably my best piece yet, I really like how neat it turned out and I love the mix of colours (even though some of these were 'off-piste' from the original pattern as I didn't have all of the exact thread numbers it advised, so I kind of had to add lib).

I've already started my next piece, one of my own designs this time, so watch this space!

Friday, 8 October 2021

I Worked on a Richard Linklater Film

Yes, the title you are reading is indeed correct- I did!! And I still can't believe it. A week ago today, I finished a 7.5 month full time gig on a feature film- 'Apollo 10 1/2', Richard Linklater's latest rotoscoped project.

His films, especially 'Waking Life' have been really influential to me and showed me a side of animation I didn't know existed and basically got me started on this whole animation thing way back when. So to now have worked on one of his films feels pretty surreal and never did I imagine I'd have the opportunity to do so. Half of me still thinks that this has been some mad kind of lucid dream!

The experience was an amazing one- I learned so much and worked with loads of super talented and cool people. At times it was challenging, but with such a supportive team of animators around me, I overcame any of the shots I was struggling with and believe it or not, picked up some self belief/ confidence along the way.

I can't wait for you all to be able to see it when it's released (it's gonna look amazing)- it should be on Netflix early next year, though when there is a date and/ or trailer, I'll definitely be posting that here!

Here is me with a j20 (don't drink), pictured shortly after finishing my last shot on the film. Sad that it's ended, but happy that it happened. Here's to the future and hopefully to working on more similar projects x

Thursday, 30 September 2021

EbSynth #3

Those eagle-eyed out there will notice that I have removed the word 'test' between the word 'EbSynth' and the number in the title here. This is because I feel that I'm not really testing the software anymore, I am now just using it. I have had so much practise with it in my job, I am now competent with it, so I guess anything like this would be more of an experiment, rather than a test. Because I am experimenting with different mediums for the keyframes etc, rather than 'testing' the software. I hope that makes sense!

So for this piece, I had the urge to make a keyframe (which will translate into the final look of the animation) using felt tip pens. I've been wanting to do this for a while, but because of work and football, I haven't had that much time to make new roto outlines for a new piece. Therefore meaning I haven't been able to experiment with different techniques. I then thought, well whatevs, I'll just use some old outlines for now as I really wanted to make this clip! I had no intention of posting it anywhere anyway (probably b/c I thought it might turn out rubbish- jesus wept my confidence in my ability is literally rubbish: note to self- this needs work!), so thought that using old outlines wouldn't matter. (Spoiler alert: the piece came out great so I did end up posting it places and you know what? No one cancelled me for using outlines I had already used on a different project)!

I printed out one of the frames from the outlines, attached a piece of tracing paper (this was so the keyframe wouldn't have any of the outlines on) and coloured it in:

I then scanned this in, imported it into my TVPaint outlines file, adjusted it so it fitted within the outlines. Then put it through EbSynth. Note: this post isn't a tutorial in using EbSynth- but I might do one of those eventually. So apologies if this doesn't quite follow.

There wasn't loads to touch up on this piece actually, which I thought there might have been. This is because how I have been using EbSynth for work has been using keyframes/ styleframes created digitally, which is why I was a little uncertain how this result using an analogue medium would look. I needn't have worried.

And, I absolutely love the result, so definitely more analogue EbSynth stuff on the way...


Sunday, 19 September 2021

Collective Weekender Roundup

A week or so ago, you may remember I said I was hosting an animation workshop as part of the Collective Weekender happening in Preston. It was a four day mini arts/ creative festival which took place in various locations around the city celebrating the variety of talent and artists living in Preston. There were loads of workshops and performances open to the public and more importantly, all FREE. Free arts is something I am a big advocate of, because I feel arts should be accessible for all, regardless of your financial situation or background. There's so many barriers in the arts and I could go on, but that is probably for a whole other blog post!

Here's the result of what we created:

Unfortunately no one besides my boyfriend turned up for the event (which was still super fun as we had a brilliant afternoon drawing horses together!), but quite disappointing on the whole. I put a lot of planning and preparation into the workshop and in all honesty it was quite an anticlimax when I realised that I wasn't going to get any attendees. Perhaps it was because of timing- I mean a Thursday afternoon might not have been the best time for this kind of thing. Or maybe I didn't promote it enough (though there's only so much I can/ want to spam my IG/ Twitter accounts). Or perhaps lack of friends in Preston (maybe I should spend less time in my room animating and do more socialising). That thought scares me..!

Whatever the cause was, on sharing the final outcome from the workshop on social media after the event, I had a lot of positive feedback which makes me think that next time I do something like this, more people will show up. Plus over the course of the weekend I met a lot of other Preston creatives by attending several of the events, so I feel like I have since widened my network.

Me in my element. Look at that smile!

The other events I attended were the Cyanotype workshop with photographer Nicola Lewis-Dixon. This was really fun as I've never done one of these before (basically cameraless photography). I'd love to try this out more in my own time.

Cyanotype workshop

The writing workshop hosted by writer and filmmaker Su Moffat. I've not attended many writing workshops (or at least not as an adult- I remember a few when I was a kid) so I didn't quite know what to expect. Though Su was really good at encouraging ideas and offered some great tips/ prompts for improving creative writing and pulling out a story.

The other event I went to was the portrait painting workshop with artist Sally Dyer. I've not painted in a way which isn't abstract for quite a few years, so this was a fantastic workshop to get back into painting. Sally was great and offered as much or as little advice you needed or wanted. Unfortunately I didn't quite finish mine in the timeframe, but the workshop was really enjoyable and relaxing and has definitely inspired me to start painting again!

Still went for abstract colours though didn't I

If I had the time, I would have loved to have attended more of these events- they all sounded fantastic and from the photographs afterwards, they looked great, too! I really hope this momentum and community of creativity in Preston continues, because it actually feels really good and positive at the moment.

Talking of which, there is actually SO MUCH GOING ON IN PRESTON right now and it's all so cool!! If this ain't the place to be in the North West right now, I don't know where is.

We got a Wallace and Gromit bench installed:

Lancashire Encounter is happening right now. Head here for the line up. There's also a lot of top class poetry/ comedy/ performances coming up, hosted by Enjoy the Show events promotion. Preston has also just released it's 12 year cultural strategy- read more about that here.

So, see you in Preston then, yeah?

Saturday, 4 September 2021

August Embroidery

Embroidery in August has been slightly slow (work, football and other stuff which happens in life have been obstacles), but I did get this one piece completed, which I'm really happy with. It's a gift for a friend who has recently given birth, so a colourful alphabet seemed an appropriate thing to sew for hanging in the baby's room. The design is pretty minimal, but I feel the simplicity of it combined with the bright colours (DMC threads are the best!) make it a really impactful piece.

Not only this, but I have also sorted out my sewing box, which was a HUGE MESS! Like threads tangled and cotton reels flying everywhere. Hopefully this will encourage me to embroider even more- it is something I love doing alongside animation and football as it's still creative/ productive, but also super relaxing and fun. Perhaps I should combine the above and make an embroidered football themed animation?! Maybe- I'm sure I'll write about it on here if I do...

Friday, 3 September 2021

Collective Weekender

I know I’ve been quite quiet on the animation front lately, BUT (and that’s a big one) I am hosting an animation workshop next Thursday (9th September) at The Larder.

The workshop is a drop in from 1-3pm, where you can be part of a BIG collaborative animation. Also, you don’t need any prior animation experience- just the enthusiasm to create! How cool is that?! All materials and assistance will be provided. Hot drinks and refreshments are available to be purchased at the venue- would recommend! 

This is part of the #collectiveweekender, a 4 day creative festival across Preston, celebrating the diversity of the creativity that goes on in and around Preston.

The events range from photography to poetry, from dance to drawing and EVERYTHING (yep, everything) in between!

To see a full list of events and to book your FREE places, click here. To see all the creatives involved, click here.

Hope to see some of you down there xo

Saturday, 17 July 2021

Shelsley Walsh Hill Climb

On Sunday 4th July (yep, I know, I've been very busy so a late post here!), my partner Ben and I decided that because of limited football options that day, we would go and do something completely different: watch some car racing at Shelsley Walsh Hill Climb. Shelsley Walsh is situated in the middle of nowhere (you know, the type of place with no phone signal) around 11 miles west of Worcester. Worcester was where I grew up and we used to see some interesting cars going past our house whenever there was an event on at Shelsley, though we didn't have a car (you can't get to it on public transport) so was never able to go. So, being back in the area that weekend, I suggested it as an idea.

Luckily, there was an event on (vintage cars, even better) so we just went for it! It was reasonably priced too, at £16 per adult for a day ticket if bought before the event (it's more on the day). The gates open for spectators around 8am and I think the races finish around 5pm, so it's definitely good value for money. We didn't quite know what to expect, so only allowed time for 3-4 hours there, though if we were to go again to anything similar, I'd like to stay for longer. There was so much to photograph!

One of the benefits of it being 'in the middle of nowhere' was that the track was nestled within the countryside, making for extremely photogenic views. As I'm usually used to photographing football, this was quite a change in that respect and it took some time to get my eye in. After a while, I knew what type of shots would work (and what would not) and ended up with some pictures I was very pleased with.

It's definitely something I would love to go back to, whether that be at the same location (or elsewhere), though I don't think it will take over from the football..!

You can view the full set of photographs here.

Wednesday, 30 June 2021

EbSynth Test #2

You may remember a while ago I made this hand-painted rotoscope piece:

…And shortly after that, I started working on another. In between then and now, I got a full time gig animating on a super amazing project, I bought some shoes which don’t have holes in and I learnt how to use EbSynth. I also painted all of the 103 frames for this second hand-painted piece, along with having drawn all the outlines frame by frame in TVPaint.

The hand painted frames (some of)

So, the title of this post is called ‘EbSynth Test #2’ and you’re probably thinking, ‘right, so she’s pretty much done all the leg work for this, why is she even talking about her new obsession in this blog post’?

The outlines

Ok, so I basically didn’t want the outlines or the paint work to have gone to waste, but at the moment, realistically I would never have found the time to produce a piece in the same way I did the first painted one. So I thought this would be a great opportunity to practise colouring with EbSynth. Using it ‘just’ to colour a clip still saves a load of time (it literally took hours to scan and clean up all the individual painted frames in the previous one).

Side note: I am currently working on a piece to get smooth outlines using EbSynth- once I’ve managed that, then there’ll be a post here, so keep an eye out in the next few weeks!

Having the outlines down already put me in an advantage, because it meant I could give EbSynth something more workable to urm, well, work with. Also, another side note: I coloured in her facial features in TVPaint such as eyes, brows, lips etc as I was working quite small when painting this piece and knew painting all that detail would have added on a lot more hours. If I were to do the keyframes again, I would have painted everything as I would only be needing to paint it a couple of times, as opposed to 103.

As you can see above, I exported the PNG sequence of both the video file and some of the outlines for EbSynth. Having a solid outline for it to follow, I’m assuming made it easier for EbSynth to give a cleaner output. I also brightened the video slightly, along with adding a little contrast, to make it stand out more.

Once I knew what PNG sequence I’d be putting into EbSynth, I needed to create the keyframes. Like I said at the start of this post, I had already painted all the frames, so it was a case of picking out a couple and scanning those, rather than all of them. As this shot has a head movement and an arm movement, I wanted to make two keys which would give EbSynth enough information of each.

I made keys of the first frame and the last frame:

Frame 1 (with outlines)

Frame 103, no outlines (what I fed to EbSynth)

I scanned in the painted frames at 1200dpi and then exported the outlines from TVP of the relevant frames to Photoshop (this would act as a guide so I could resize the painted versions to match the outlines). Here, I cleaned up some blemishes on the paint work and also erased the white paper surrounds. EbSynth works well with an alpha channel and I didn’t want to sit there afterwards and remove the background of 103 frames or it totally would have defeated the object of using EbSynth. If I removed the background for the keyframes, EbSynth would use that information and keep those sections as an alpha channel too. Cowabunga, dude!

Once I had nice clean versions of the keys, I ran them through EbSynth and waited patiently for it to work it’s magic and 10 or 20 mins later (my computer is crazy slow) I had the frames ready to import back into TVP. Also, with the keys, I switched off the outline layers before inputting them to EbSynth. This was so there wouldn’t be an outline on those layers, as it wasn’t needed and would have made it look messy.

I had no idea how it would turn out, but wow I was happy with the result. It was a lot cleaner than I was expecting. Though it definitely still needed touching up in places:

Ignore the pink background- that’s just a placement background as a neutral colour to allow me to see the bits I needed to clean up better. Most of it was a case of just erasing the parts which came out of frame, though there were some bits (mainly on her hand) where EbSynth completely missed the mark. To fill these in, I used the cut brush and made a custom brush from it, allowing me to use the right colour and texture from the painted frames without the new bits standing out or looking weird. Think of it like the clone tool in Photoshop basically.

Where it missed on her hand

I also added the shading using EbSynth which I did on a separate layer. I used 3 keyframes for this and then blended them together. I don’t really add shading to my work mainly due to time constraints, though of course EbSynth allows me to add shading without much extra effort. And I must admit it looks a lot better than the stuff I’ve done previously without shading. So shading is going on everything from now on!

An improvement for this would be that perhaps I could have added the shading as I painted it or digitally added it in a more painterly way. Or even used a blend mode to make it feel more ingrained. Anyway...

So what does this mean for an independent animator like myself?

The big one: it saves so much time! I can get more done in a shorter amount of time, allowing me to spend more time focussing on style, look and story, as opposed to that energy going into drawing each frame. It literally is a game changer! To make an independent short or feature, it will really help speed the process up, meaning I could make something in a fraction of the time it would normally take. How cool is that?! 

I also don’t think a program like this will be something which takes jobs away from animators. As I have just outlined here, a lot of human work is still needed to create an effective piece. Yes, it speeds up the work, but just think of how a program like this can help the independent feature and short film industry. Less time to produce work = less cost to make work = more independent work produced without having to rely on funding = more diverse, cool, interesting animations. Win.

Ps. I know this post was kind of long- I hope I was able to explain everything in a fairly concise or at least clear manner. If you’ve any questions after reading this on EbSynth or my process, then just drop them below and I’ll try and answer as best as I can.