Sunday, 9 December 2007

Amazing Maurice - Finished!

So here's a little edit of most of the backgrounds, recorded at the rehearsals. Technical hitches aside, I think the project turned out pretty well. Director David seemed happy anyway...

Amazing Maurice - Projected from Retchy on Vimeo.

Friday, 7 December 2007

Amazing Maurice

Technical problems ahoy! The clouds have been bloody annoying - VJ software apparently wasn't built to deal with 10 minutes of them, so we came up with the solution to just scroll a very long still image of clouds in the VJ software, at the expense of some lovely parallax. The slight problem with that though is that they randomly decide to disappear at seemingly completely unpredictable intervals, leaving a black sky in the background. And the slightly bigger problem is that this actually did happen on the opening night of the play! I was sure I'd sorted it out in rehearsals but I think it's just a software bug, so we're keeping them still for the rest of the run... turns out people thought it was intentional anyway!

More exciting news later.

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Polygon Project

Did some tests last night and they worked! First time! This is an unusual occurence for me, as things usually fuck up straight away and I end up giving up in frustration. I am properly excited about it now though, and I can't wait to try it out in the shoe factory.

Hopefully you'll understand what I'm trying to do now, as I am aware my previous explanations were a bit rubbish. Just try and imagine this on a much larger scale, with way more shapes and more interesting things happening, without a kitchen table in the way...

My First Map from Retchy on Vimeo.

Edit - 01/03/08: It's been brought to my attention that I didn't actually explain how I did this in the end. So for those of you that are interested, here's how I've managed to do it without any programming trickery, which is what I feared may be involved.

The first thing I did was stumble across Deepvisual's tutorial on Youtube about how to do 3D mapping in Modul8 - here it is. Luckily, I have a copy of Modul8 and it was a great relief when I discovered you could do it this easily. To summarise his video, it basically involves taking 2D shapes into M8 and using the Perspective Transform Freeframe effect to distort the shape as if it were in 3D space. You do this as you are projecting onto whatever you want to map so you can see when it's lined up correctly.

Once you're happy with how it's lined up (and it can be a bit fiddly with this method), you need to render a frame of all of the shapes as they are set up in Modul8. If the map isn't quite right and leaks over the edges a bit, you may want to take the render into photoshop to trim the edges until it's right - this is completely trial and error and you'll need to keep importing new versions into M8 to test them as you go, but if you keep the current version projected onto the shapes you can make slightly better judgements by cross referencing. If you're doing more complex shapes than just triangles (like badly made cubes with curvy edges!) this can take quite a while.

So you've got the mask finalised, now you need to animate it. I use After Effects, so I took the still frame and used it as a template for my animations. Make sure the movie is at the same resolution as you have set up in M8 (in this case it was 640 x 480) so that it lines up properly when you bring the final animation back in to be projected. That should be it, as long as you've kept the projector in EXACTLY the same position the whole time. Pretty simple really if you've got all the right kit, but this is probably not the most efficient or accurate method, and perhaps wouldn't work for more organic, irregular shapes (although I haven't tried this). It works for my purposes at the moment though...hope this might help someone.

Friday, 23 November 2007

Amazing Maurice

The backgrounds are finished! Big thanks to Joseph - he done 'em, he did. We're gonna animate a few bits and pieces, like the fireplace in the kitchen, and drips in the caves etc. We need to re-scan the red barn I think, cos the colours are a bit screwed compared to the original.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Amazing Maurice

We did a quick test of the projector at the theatre on Friday, and discovered it's not very bright and makes our work look a bit shit, so we're going to need to borrow a good one from the college. I was a bit worried that we'd been doing everything on too small a scale, but having seen it projected I think we'll be fine with a decent projector. I would have more to show you, but I left my laptop charger at college and have about two minutes to write this - goodbyeeee!

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Amazing Maurice

This is pretty much the finished version for the intro projection, although I've left out the 10 minutes of slowly moving clouds that will be there when the actors are doing their thing. The actor playing Maurice (the cat) will come on stage as the cat fades out...

Cheers Joe, awesome background!

Amazing Maurice Intro - Finished from Retchy on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Amazing Maurice

Here we go, our first bit of animation for the projections. It's not finished though - just need to replace the background it zooms into with the proper finished and coloured one when we get it.

Amazing Maurice Intro from Retchy on Vimeo.

I think the jerkiness adds to it's charm.

Monday, 12 November 2007

Aurora 2007

Just had a great weekend helping out with the animation festival, as well as catching a few of the programs. The two Robert Breer screenings were definite highlights for me - I wasn't really aware of his work before this weekend, but it's clear other animators I've admired in the past have been. I was lucky enough to be able to talk to him a bit (well, Richard talked and I mainly listened), and there was a weird reversal of perspectives going on, where Richard was espousing the merits of film and it's freshness to us younguns, whereas Robert was defending all things digital, arguing that it was cheaper, easier for people to make a living from, and more reliable (I bet he wasn't thinking that when the dvd kept skipping during one of his screenings). Anyway, that little conversation, as well as his awesome films, have helped me develop my Polygon Project a bit more - more on that later!

Wednesday, 7 November 2007


This is quite possiblty the best thing I've ever seen! I loves it, I do -


I saw some of his stuff ages ago, and he seems to have become a bit of a youtube hit now. I also think I may have ripped off his style a bit on some of my recent animations, without realising it of course. Only a little bit though - his ideas are far more fucked up than mine. Check out his web site for many many more amazing things -

Aaaand another good one that I'm allowed to embed...

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Polygon Project

A few very quickly sketched out ideas for the polygons. They will probably end up looking nothing like this, just thought I should actually post some of my own stuff for a change...

Monday, 5 November 2007

Polygon Project

I've got a better idea of what the hell I'm doing for my first self negotiated project now. Yay! Ummm...yeah, polygons. This is now officially called The Polygon Project, and will involve the reacreation of a digital 3D space in an analogue (i.e. real) 3D space. That sounds ridiculous I know, but let me try to explain.

Animating stuff in 3D software has traditionally pissed me right off, because it's so bloody fiddly and annoying. So I've always fancied having a go at subverting it somehow, and at dealing with a similar aesthetic but with the advantages and imperfections that live action filming can bring. The plan is to come up with some very simple compostions and models in Maya (3D software), and recreate them in the big old shoe factory (where the bluescreen space is), using hanging cardboard cut-outs of each of the polygons, but also to space them at varying distances from the camera, so that when the camera moves there is an artificial parallax effect - kind of like the channel 4 idents, but in reverse...

The idea is to blend in these live action shots with some fancy After Effects animations in post production. I don't really know why at the moment - I think I originally wanted to have the animations almost break down and have people or microphones being revealed as the camera screws up its moves or something.

Anyway, that's the 3D space / camera move recreation sorted (like there's not going to be any problems), "but what about the textue mapping!?", I hear you ask. Well, I'm going to use that projection mapping technique I've been on about to project onto each individual polygon, so I'll effectively be able to animate the whole set up as I film the camera moves, and because I'll be filming in darkness, anything that isn't being projected onto should be invisible, so I'll be able to play around with how the shapes are revealed, coloured, patterned etc.

This is really just a series of tests and experiments to see what the technique is capable of, and (assuming that something good comes from it) I'll go on to develop it for different ideas later in the year.

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Amazing Maurice

Things are getting going now - We've got Joseph, one of the 3rd year animators, doing the backgrounds for us, and David found an old victorian photo album that we're customising and using as the book to animate opening onto the first scene at the start of the play. Should have something to show you within the next couple of days...

Friday, 2 November 2007

Sound Re-Design

Here's some stuff wot might be of interest to my classmates, cos we have to do a similar thing at some point...

Untitled#2 from # on Vimeo.

untitled from # on Vimeo.

We have to redesign the sound track to a 3 minute clip of our choice I think. Thought these were quite interesting in how non-literal sounds were used to give the images a different character...

Monday, 29 October 2007

More Mapping

Check out mapping tests 1 to 4 at the bottom of this page. They're ace. I really want to try this out. A couple of my neighbours are into graffiti and I'm thinking about asking them if I can animate some of their designs, and planning some sort of projection onto buildings involving this technique. Just an idea, like.

AV Challenge

Ok, this is pissing me off now. I've been struggling with technology ever since I started this little project, and it isn't getting any better. First of all, the loops wouldn't play back properly in Module8 (VJ software) and would get stuck on the last frame for about half a second before looping again. It took me a while to figure out that M8 doesn't like uncompressed sound, so when I had re-rendered all the clips with compressed sound and started some mixes, it turns out M8 doesn't like rendering the sound output either - i.e. it doesn't bloody do it! And neither does AV Drum!! Which is an audio visual program, for bumsake!!!

So screw it, I don't have time to piss about with it anymore - the presentation is on Thursday. I've asked if anyone has done a mix yet on VJForums, and I'll give them a few hours to respond before I have to start looking for something else to analyse. I'm thinking some sort of live VJ mix that could be seen as a collaboration with the DJ or musician. Or I could just analyse this AV Challenge collaboration as a complete failure...hmm.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Amazing Maurice

David has made contact with various potential collaborators, cos he knows everybody, and given them a deadline for a preliminary sketch of one of the scenes. We will then judge which is best, and offer them a drawing contract worth one hundred pounds (of Davids money - not mine, oh no) - X-Factor style! We're also putting up some beautifully designed posters around the college.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

VJ-ing - potential first gig!

Met up with Andy who I got in touch with on VJForums, and who happens to work at the college. We talked about geeky, techie things (Quartz Composer, VDMX - stuff I'm gonna check out). Things that he seemed to know alot more about than me. I smiled and nodded the majority of the time. He was very keen to get me straight in there and do my first gig as soon as possible, and said he'd have a look to see what nights are available at the SU Bar. Not just me on my own though, that would be silly. I've got a feeling I'll run out of the content that I've spent the best part of a year creating in about twenty minutes.

I'm also going to tag along to some of the gigs him and Dan are doing soon, so I can see what goes on while they set up and stuff.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Amazing Maurice

Had a meeting with David and the director, David Lambert, today to clarify a few things. And clarify, it did. We now know the number of scenes we need, what has to be in them and how much animation we need to produce. The stills that David L. had drawn for the backgrounds were a bit, errr, "basic" we thought, so we put it to him that we'd like to bring in a fourth collaborator to come up with some cool, Kirby-esque illustrations for the static scenes. He seemed fairly open to the idea, but maybe a bit cautious - don't think he wants us to go too crazy with it, which is fair enough. He also mentioned that the idea was to treat the backgrounds as if they were the pages of a fairytale style book, which led to the idea of having the cover projected as the audience arrives and settles down, and then as the lights dim, the book opens onto the first scene and also closes before lights up.

Current background example -

We also have a sound track to work to, which is handy. Sounded a bit cheesey on the brief listen we had, but we definately don't have time to re-do that (only five weeks!).

Monday, 22 October 2007


Crustea linked to some more of his experiments with mapping today on VJForums, here's a couple...

Light sculpture installation type thing and
a test (I presume) for the above

...and they're sparking off lots of ideas in my head, as we speak. I perhaps don't want to go down the very precise route that he seems to be taking, but I have been planning some sort of abstract, polygonal, bluescreen experiments that might benefit from some sort of projection onto the surfaces. In fact, maybe I won't need bluescreen after all - the idea was to do some animations in After Effects and then film live action versions where it all breaks down, people get in the way, the camera gets nudged etc. and then blend them SEEMLESSLY together. But if I plan it right, bluescreen shouldn't actually be necessary...

I need to figure out how they do this mapping stuff, and I've got a horrible feeling it's dead complicated and codey - vvvv was mentioned I think. I'm sure there's a simpler way round it though.

Sunday, 21 October 2007


Went to have a look at Suzie's bluescreen space the other day, in a huge old shoe factory. 'Tis good but it might be a bit too big for my needs. I'm not sure I need to use bluescreen at all actually.

Friday, 19 October 2007

Amazing Maurice

Meetings meetings meetings. For the main part of this collaborative practices unit we need to collaborate on a project with someone. So me and David have decided to work together on a youth theatre production of The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett. We went up to the theatre yesterday for a quick look around, ate some pies, and realised that the director wasn't actually going to be in, so we're meeting him sometime next week to find out exactly what needs to be done. We do know that he wants a short animated sequence to be projected (a rat being decapitated) and a series of still backgrounds for the rest of the play.

So far so good, although we are possibly getting a bit too ambitious already, with visions of Josh Kirby style backgrounds...

It would be good if we could find another collaborator to help us out though, as we both agree we'd like to push it as far as we can. We also both agree that we're rubbish at drawing and would need someone else in order achieve this.

I think a cut-out animation style would be nice, a bit like this which I think is dead good...

Wolf Boy from offplanetfilms on Vimeo.

Monday, 15 October 2007

AV Challenge

Right, I've decided over the weekend that instead of just passively observing this project, I'm gonna take part in it too! So I booked out a loverly HDDV Camera from college, filmed my clips, and uploaded them to, now I'm just waiting for everyone elses clips (got a few to play with already though). Results coming soon!

Edit - All the clips have been compiled here

Thursday, 11 October 2007

AV Challenge

So, I have to give a short presentation on an analysis of an existing collaborative project as part of the collaborative practices module. Initially I was thinking I'd probably end up looking at some sort of professionally produced studio piece, like a music video or nice piece of animation, but I could see that becoming a bit dull fairly quickly. Then I remembered this thread I'd seen at VJ Forums a while ago, and saw an opportunity to actually witness the collaborative process as it happened, and to analyse the resulting films as they are uploaded.

Just to summarise the process - each person makes eight audio-visual clips around the theme of water, uploads them to under a Creative Commons licence, where everyone else can download them and then mix them together using their preffered live video mixing software. The end result should be a series of AV "mash-ups". Here's one from the previous challenge. Actually it's the ony one from the previous challenge, which is slightly worrying, but there does seem to be more interest in this current one.

I think it will be quite interesting to see how this pans out, as it's a bit of a strange way of collaborating, what with the participants being quite remote and distanced from one another. I have a feeling that the best results will probably depend largely on careful, selective use of the clips.

Luckily the deadlines for the AV Challenge happen to fit in perfectly with my own deadline for the presentation (assuming everyone does stuff on time - this could be a problem!).

Links -
VJ Forums thread
Youtube example

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

The MA Begins...

Hello! I 've just started an MA in animation and sound design, and thought I'd post various thoughts, movies, ideas, sketches and what-have-you on here in order to record whatever kind of crazy progress I make. Internet access is currently fairly limited, but should be sorted soon so I'll post some of the stuff I've been working on before I started the course when it is.

Monday, 8 October 2007

'Herr Bar' by Clark

One of the things I showed at my interview for the MA. It's a very rough edit that I put together a couple of nights before the interview and haven't touched since...

'Herr Bar' by Clark from Retchy on Vimeo.