My first impressions of the first day of class were those of intimidation and excitement. It is quite the daunting task to come up with an idea, or at least an inkling of an idea to contribute a whole semesters of work to. If we are playing the honesty game, it is rather intimidating. On the other hand, the challenge of it is intriguing and even thrilling if you will. The thought of having to think creatively on your feet is a skill I am looking forward to developing as a digital artist.
I have decided to dedicate this semester to creating a piece of digital art for Laurie Petrou’s documentary project. After she posed some buzz words like “Handmade” “Old School” and “Vinyl” I became to form the beginnings of a vision for what this project could look like.
In the early stages of thought, I picture black and white sketchy cartoon animations of the children speaking, and animations acting out what the children are describing. For this concept I am drawing some inspiration from the Penny cartoon from Pee-Wee’s Playhouse. The children’s audio reminded me of that, and I think it is visually appealing to see there stories come to life in a fun way.
Visually I’m leaning towards an Edward Gorey feel to the animation. I like the quirkiness of the characters and feel this kind of look works with the “old school” and “handmade” what Laurie said she is looking for. I’m hoping to achieve some shaky movement of the lines to represent a scratchy vinyl look, and maybe add a blurred effect to create a vintage look.
WEEK TWO: Pitch
For my pitch I had three concepts I presented for Laurie’s documentary project, two of which I found quite difficult to choose between. I’ll share them her.
I thought of doing a motion graphic piece with kinetic text to complement the audio. I wanted to have the text in color and matching the audio, as well as using the typeface and style of the animation to help tell the story. I also wanted the text to guide and flow into different frames to show different sketchy animals interacting with each other as another element to visualize the story of the interviews. I felt strongly about this idea at first, because I knew it was something I already had the skills to do on After Effects. My production group liked the idea, and felt like it had potential, however they preferred my second pitch.
My second animation idea I wanted to really focus on look Laurie had suggested in her call. I was really inspired by the word “vinyl” and this was what I pictured after hearing Laurie’s vocal vision for it. This is the truest of my pitches to my initial vision for the project. I spoke in my previous post of the “Penny Cartoon” and the Gorey style, and with this concept I felt this was a very complimenting look for this documentary. I have the plan to either use an animated record or to combine the a live action record and to have the sketches evolve from the spinning record. I will have a animation of each character speaking and then little mice acting out what they are describing, what reminds me of the little dinosaurs that live in the hole in the wall of the Playhouse, you know while I’m already exhausting these references. This was the one my production house was most keen on, even though I felt that this technically was a lot to take on considering my lacking Adobe skills, but with some encouraging and complimentary words from Prof. Jamie Waese (which is most appreciated), I have decided to take on the challenge, and expand my artistic horizons. Lovely. It should be interesting.
So I have been working on some sketches for my final animatic, quite a few actually! I have been trying to get a concrete design for my girl and boy characters, and this is what I have come up with:
I think they are pretty cute. I like their little feet, and Mr. Incredible-like figures. I working on figuring out how to make them blink, and what that needs to look like, as well as figuring out how to do some mouth animation. However, I don’t really picture them having teeth, but I might need to give that little vision up if I want it to actually look like they are talking, and not just a mouth moving up and down, but I guess only time will tell at this point how that will end up. Also working out some kinks with the design of the mice I plan to use to act out the story, at this point they do not have arms or legs, because mouse hands and feet are so dainty and adorable, it might be harder for it to look normal for animation purposes. So at this stage in the process they kind of look like sweet potatoes with mouse heads and a tail.
However, during this portion of the blog I will digress from my digital media project. You know how when your growing up you always hear “Dream really do come true” whether it be from fairytales, American Idol contestants, or Disney. I had never really experienced one of these moments myself, that is until Tiff.
BACKSTORY: My father is very into the movie “Die Hard”. Growing up I had seen it multiple times at a very much younger age than the creators intended their audience to be. Anyway in a nutshell at the age of about 6 or 7 I developed an infactuation with British thespian Alan Rickman that has carried on into adulthood.
In August the TIFF lords made my wishes and hopes come true as they announced Rickman’s film A Little Chaos would be closing the festival, on a Saturday. Brilliant, and every single day since that day I prayed to the TIFF gods that they would play their cards in my favor again.
On September 13th, 2014 I met Alan Rickman. It was a beautiful moment. He was beautiful. Though he didn’t really have time to chat with me for hours and whisper sweet nothings, it was very gratifying to express my joy towards his films and for him to express that he appreciated it, as well as slightly touching my hand as he took a pen from me. It was practically a dream.
Well I have been just working away at being a digital artist, and I would like to use this post to share what I have been working on in Laurie Petrou’s Digital Media for Evolving Audiences.
In this lecture we evaluated “selfie culture” and what this new form of expressionism means in relation to us as individuals and to the art world. Some feel this is an extension of narcissism heightened by new technologies while others like James Franco, a known advocate of selfies consider them a new form of communication.
For an assignment in this class I had the chance to interpret this phenomenon myself, and create my own selfie. Well, I didn’t just haul out my iPhone for this one, instead I explored the idea of different sides of the self. I also concidered what isn’t expressed about myself from a traditional selfie. So I separated the concept and created a contrast of “the selfie” and “the inner selfie”
I used a vinyl record as a canvas to communicate unity with our outer and inner selves. Usually the A-side single sounds completely different from the B-side, however they still come together cohesively, as our inner and outer selves.
So on the A-side I painted a self portrait. I used basic black and white to symbolize the idea that ones exterior in a selfie really is black and white, we are only perceiving one by what we see in front of us. Outer exterior can be beautiful, but does it really do justice to what is on the inside?
On the B-side I incorporated ideas about myself that are not expressed through any selfie I have ever taken. For example, my inspirations, memories, dreams, beliefs, thoughts, spirit, hidden desires, and my Harry Potter Patronus.
I feel that selfies are a unique way of communicating and can help people to find comfort in their own skin and explore the way they can be seen by the world. However I think this concept of an inner selfie adds a different kind of vulnerability to the regular selfie. You are no longer hiding behind a body, it is just sharing every bit of what you know or how you see the world and letting someone else experience that.
This was the week I decided if I was going to animate the spinning record in my piece or shoot it live action.
After consulting with my production group, and Prof. Jamie and Prof. Laurie I have decided I am going to animate it. Finally. I came to this conclusion from looking at the After Effects process on my one-on-one meeting. After understanding the process of how the animation would work in the program it seemed like a less daunting task than I had once thought. I also took into consideration the efforts that would need to be made to integrate the animation work with a live action record, and I felt that I could achieve a more clean and seamless look with an animated record.
Another issue I had to clear up was in regards to the mice hands/arms. In my first drafts of the story board and the animatic I had not given the mice hands or arms, because I couldn’t quite get a vision for how they would look, or if they would be too small to cleanly animate it. However I have come up with a design bestowing cute little stubby arms on the mice. Now they can actually have the ability to hug, and not just nuzzle, even though nuzzling is adorable and nice.
At this point in the process I have been completing my individual components to put into photoshop, tidy up and then put into After Effects. For my people characters I have drawn all the main parts of the body separate. I have a layer for the head and hair, then I have the neck and torso, then the bottom and the legs and feet on other layers, I also made an arm, because I am quite dreadful when it comes to proper proportions so I thought the only way to make them the same size would be to just duplicate it and then mirror it. I included the eyeballs on the faces, and I plan to animate the pupils, eyebrows and mouths in AfterEffects along with the rest of the motion.
For the mice I have drawn them very similar to the way I presented them in my final animatic, in the sense that they are basically potatoes with heads and a nose. I separated their arms and ears, so I can animate those parts to make perform the actions with their arms and to bring them to life a little more with their ears moving, as well as the pupils, making them blink.
With the record as the base I want to spin rapidly while the other characters come out of it. The needle is going to go up and down just a little to reinforce a realistic record player. After Effects here I come!
I thought I would use this week to also talk about what I have been doing in Laurie’s class. For our last assignment we had to retell the poem “The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes in a different way. For a while I had a couple ideas, one I was very happy about was to do a kinetic typography retelling of the last versus of the poem. However, Victoria Morton told me she really wanted to do a children’s picture book retelling and asked If I would like to illustrate it. I loved this idea and we became partners and came up with a concept. We thought instead of having a love interest between the Highwayman and the landlord’s daughter we told a tragic story of lost friendship with a boy and his imaginary friend. So she wrote the story and I did the pictures and I am really happy how it turned out in the end. I have never illustrated a story before and I found it really engaging to design characters and scenes, and I found it quite challenging to create one image to represent a whole scene of the story, unlike animation or video when we get to draw every frame. However I really enjoyed doing it, and got some great feedback from some of my classmates. It’s interesting because I have never really considered myself as an artist, but as the semester goes on and I am seeing my work come to life, and it’s a really charming experience, and I’m starting to become more confident with what I can do in this field and it’s really exciting to me.
Here is the cover.
This is the week I cried and sent you (Jamie) that email while crying because After Effects exists.
So to say that I was struggling with After Effects would be an understatement. I was having real difficulty with the 3D elements moving and staying in the place I needed them too while the camera moved around them. I also had trouble with pupils and worked at them quite a bit, I was moving them too slowly, and didn’t understand how to parent them to the head properly and that caused some issues, as well as again working with them in 3D space, sometimes they would sit on the characters eyes properly and then when movement occurred they would sink into the character layer and be invisible, and I didn’t know why that was happening, and it was frustrating. The same thing with my mice characters, they would sink into their surroundings and I didn’t know what, because after one camera move zooming into them they were fine, and then I would zoom to something else, and then back to them and they would be gone, and it was frustrating. Also for some reason it takes 5 minutes to RAM play 5 seconds and I’m already in half resolution, so I mean, it’s been a really time consuming experience to sync up the movements with the audio, and at this point I haven’t even begun to sync lip movements, so it’s been really frustrating.
To touch on something positive I did manage to get the record to spin correctly! And that looks pretty neat. Also another positive note is that I came to the conclusion that After Effects and animating is not really my cup of tea. I had a ball story boarding and designing the characters, however this actual making it move thing my talents haven’t quite taken to it. Maybe this will be a practice and time kind of skill, but so far I’m not really having fun with it and I think it shows unfortunately in my producers cut. Hopefully something magical will come together at the end of it all, but that is really the only hope in the world.
Here is a photograph of me whilst doing After Effects. #art
I thought I would use this week to discus what we have been working on in Laurie’s class.
So currently we have been in the process of creating our own Alternative Reality Game! (ARG). Laurie wanted to give us a topic that she felt was important and topical in our current student society so she suggested that we take on the challenge of the theme of student rape culture. We were all kind of shocked at first about the subject, because it is so sensitive as a topic, and we were unsure about how one would make a game about it!
First for our research Laurie took us to the Mystery Rooms, which is basically a type of ARG where you are locked in a slightly decorated and dark room and you have to solve clues to unlock the door to get to other slightly dark and decorated room and then solve more clues to go into another room etc etc, and then you get to come out and win. So that was fun, and got us in the mindset of how to create clues and how to make them challenging, yet solvable, you know? It is important to understand that, because if it’s too easy people will just get through it really quick and not really get anything out of it, but if it’s to hard they won’t be able to get through it.
However, more importantly we needed to focus on the story, players need to come out of the experience with some kind of emotion towards our topic. Like we have been discovering through our studies of media, in every aspect storytelling is the big picture. I felt that working on this ARG platform was so interesting because it made us think inventively to try to tell this story in a new way, that wasn’t just a video or a website but someone is actually actively participating in this. So it becomes a matter of how can you get someone to feel this, or how will some react to that, I just really enjoyed the challenge of this assignment.
So I won’t go into full detail about our clues and such. But we chose to tell the story through a metaphor. Instead of addressing the topic of rape head on, we are telling the story of a protagonist who loses her bike. The players then have to find the bike, which is missing the seat and the wheels, so the players have to carry around the weight of the bike around with them through all the phases of the game as victims of sexual assault carry that weight around with them. As the players follow the course of the ARG solving clues to collect pieces to put the bike back together the face a dead end at the finish line, as the last piece of the bike never appears, it’s game you can’t win. It just drives the fact that when it comes to sexual assault you can’t always put back together what was lost.
As my project is still in After Effects limbo, we talked a bit about Pee-wee’s Playhouse last week, so I thought I would use this week to highlight my inspirations as an artist, and what gets my rocks off as a creator of media.
I would say that Pee-wee’s Playhouse is one of my biggest inspirations for wanting to create my own media. I was never allowed to watch it as a kid, because my mother thought it was too strange. So in my life there was always this mysticism around it for me, so when I was 16 one of my friends I was working on some music with had all the seasons on DVD. So when I saw that he had it, I asked to borrow it and just watched it all in a disgustingly short amount of time, I was just absolutely blown away by it. It to this day I am just as mesmerized by it. It is my favorite television show and piece of art.
I just feel a certain connection to it, I just get it and I feel like it gets me. I feel like it perfectly reflects my true heart as a person, it’s animated, whimsical, nonsensical, colorful, it’s just everything I enjoy about the world we get to experience, I don’t know, I just watch it and I feel at home.
I love to imagine and draw and Pee-Wee is taking those amazing dream babies and actually making them real and that is what I want to do as a digital media maker.
FUN FACT: One of my favorite characters is Floory, mostly because he is a snidey little hardwood floor. I also like the Jewish dinosaurs that live in the hole in the wall, but Pee Wee is totally my favourite.
Wayne White is one of my big idols in the art world. He worked on the show as one of the art creators. He worked on design elements of the show, but what I think is really cool is that designed some of the puppets then built them, and then performed them.
Here are some of his sketches for the show:
I really like the dirty dog one, because his notes are their considering the colours and how he plans on structuring it. It’s just over the top neat thing. You can just see how these sketches came from paper to the TV. I just love how much physical handmade art went into the show, the artists that designed it, made it from scratch. There is something in that we don’t really get to see a lot of anymore these days, and it’s a shame because at the heart of the show you can see the passion and style that went into it.
SIDE NOTE TO JAMIE: So I was super excited to find out that you were teaching this class, because I had seen a lot of what I think is the first couple seasons of the Doodlebops and think it is wonderful. The first time I caught it on television I thought “This is awesome, this is like musical Pee-Wee,” and then I had this a-ha moment right after where I was like “Someone created this world, in Canada, right now,” it was then that I thought, well maybe I could do this too. My brother is also very into visual art and maybe it was like 3 or 4 summers ago, I found the Doodlebops again on CBC, I think it was just reruns, but I showed my brother who is four years younger than me, and I was like “Your going to think this is weird because it’s clearly a children’s show, I get that, but just watch this whole thing with me.” He respected my request and we just watched the entire episode. After he was like “Yeah I’m really into this,” and that summer we just watched an episode everyday, on CBC. My sister who was probably 8 at the time thought we were out of our minds, but we just really thought it was great. I still find that I get certain songs stuck in my head, especially when I’m getting on a bus, so I mean it has had lasting effects. So I shall personally thank you for being a part of my inspiration as a digital media artist! and also say that it was really really really cool being in your class and getting your advice and help on my animation, it was beyond helpful and appreciated and really cool. (Oh! Also if you ever get around to watching “Beauty is Embarrassing,” lemme know what you think!)