Friday, 29 February 2008

Quel Surprise, Une Probleme Technicale!

I was working on the assumption that I would be able to use two laptops in order to project both onto the hanging shapes and the wall behind. However, I'm not allowed to borrow the extra one from the college, cos I'm apparently not the right kind of student. I now have to spend money on a solution that probably won't work, or even more money on something that definitely will work. I won't bore you with the technicalities, but basically I need a gadget that will allow me to output two different sources from the same laptop.

The cheaper option will mean I have to have a setup like this, actually physically having to mask the projectors off with card or something, which will be virtually impossible to set up without me wanting to kill something...and I'm not even sure it's possible.

The expensive option would be sooooo much easier and would be guaranteed to work - Matrox DualHead2Go. I have a decision to make.

Edit: I just got my loan through. What's a hundred pounds these days, eh? I'll try and sell some more videogames to cover the cost. It better be worth it though...

Sound Re-Design

I had an interesting tutorial with a sound designer called Barnaby, whose surname I can't remember, today. We went through what I had already done on the project (not really very much), and picked apart what was and wasn't working. He pointed out that the beginning gets far too over the top, far too soon, and lacks the subtlety that is needed for it to contrast with the build up and climax of the rest of the track. I did kind of know this, but was ignoring the fact and distracting myself by tinkering with the minutiae of the project instead of concentrating on the overarching flow from start to finish. He talked a lot about orchestrating all the elements of the track, gradually introducing elements, pulling them back at certain points, synching with the images and then cutting off that relationship temporarily and so on...all really helpful points that have jolted me out of my blinkered focus and made me concentrate on the overall flow of the piece.

Up until now I've been reluctant to get stuck into this project for some reason. I've had the odd couple of hours here and there, but just ended up becoming really frustrated with the software we're using (Logic 7). I don't think I'm the only one either - David had his entire project deleted by the program the other day (!), and Catherine's always saying how much she despises it. I can see why now, it's just really temperamental and completely ILLogical most of the time. I'll have to get over it now though and get stuck into the project - I'm much more up for it after that tutorial...

I may upload what I've done so far next week sometime, so you can see what I'm on about.

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Narrative Presentation

I presented Marvin to the class today, and got some feedback from them afterwards. They seemed to get it I think, after a bit of a painful pause before anyone actually said anything. David and another person however, put forward the idea that perhaps the film is a metaphor for ejaculation, the robot sewing his seed across the planet. Hmmmmm. Others thought the tornados were Marvin's "ideas". These are the kinds of things that come out of people's mouths when they've spent too much time at art college. They seemed a bit confused when I told them that it was just, you know, errrr, a whirlwind machine. I'm joking of course (!), it was nice to get other people's perspectives on it - I'm just relieved that they weren't completely bemused by the whole thing. It's a simple idea I suppose, so maybe people just naturally feel the need to read more into it...

Hand Drawn Mapping

Here are a couple of quick tests I did the this week up at the factory. It's really hard to avoid falling into the Tron aesthetic when you're doing this kind of stuff, which is exactly what I found myself doing at first, and being annoyed when it looked a bit shit. So I decided to quickly try out this idea instead, drawing out the projection map by hand.

Hand Drawn Mapping from Retchy on Vimeo.

I thought, although it's a bit rough, that this was a promising line of enquiry so I decided to give it a proper go the next day. Unfortunately I didn't have much time then either, so this is only marginally improved but much clearer I think. I'll have some full days there next week to try out more stuff, like doing some sort of transition from having the video footage in the background to isolating the outlined shapes by fading the background out or something. Or maybe doing some line drawn animation to project behind the triangles etc...

Hand Drawn Mapping - Slightly Better from Retchy on Vimeo.

I quite like the effect at the end when I moved the camera out of position, maybe I can develop that a bit more. I'm going to try and get my head around somehow filming it so that I can project the bit where I'm drawing the outlines away from the hanging shapes, so that it's more obvious what's going on, and then move the paper into position so it lines up with the hanging shapes. The shapes, and their shadows, are getting in the way a bit at the moment. This may involve doing it all backwards. My head hurts.

I'm also going to try filming with my Super 8 camera to see how it looks, and b) to find out if the camera actually works or not. I don't think I have time to try 16mm - maybe it's something to do next term.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Polygon Reprise

After, what, four weeks of fucking about trying to sort out various spaces I've finally settled back into this project and I'm getting excited about it again, which is good. The Perfect Space I thought of on Anglia Square was just a pain in the arse to get anywhere with - I found out I'd need the backing of a charitable organisation in order to get in there, but Outpost turned me down cos they only offer support to work that can be exhibited. This is something I might have been able to negotiate, but I was running out of time. Maybe it's something to bear in mind when I come to ideas for the Masters project. Suzie's been great though, running around for me trying to find somewhere else closer to college for me to work, whilst I've been busy with other stuff. She couldn't get anywhere in town but did however find me a different room in the factory, and I was up there today blacking it out so I can work during daylight hours.

I think it's going to work this time - I've set up a white screen with some big bits of chip board that happened to be there already, so I can do some cool feedback stuff, the ceiling is nice and low and not chicken wire, and it didn't appear to be nearly as cold in there today. Although that could have been me sweating from the bike ride up there.

Some footage tomorrow perhaps...

Monday, 25 February 2008

Marvin - Finished

For the moment at least. I'm not entirely sure that I've nailed the pacing and editing properly, and the soundtrack certainly isn't how I would have done it had I had more time. I was imagining a much more dusty, desolate and wind swept atmosphere to really bring home the isolation of the robot, but this would have involved recording my own sounds and getting involved much deeper in the sound design process - something I'm doing in the sound re-design module at the moment anyway.

Marvin from Retchy on Vimeo.

I'd definitely like to go back and re-do the sound at some point. I think it's interesting how the sound design can really affect the pacing and feel of the narrative - something we've not looked at in much depth in this module. Even with this kind of placeholder soundtrack I've done, I still think it helped shape the story and certainly gave Marvin a lot more character than he initially had., which is possibly the most important aspect of the film.

I always find it really hard to take that step back when I'm doing narrative based stuff and assess whether the story actually makes sense or not. I feel I can do it on a purely visual level, but I guess I just don't have the confidence in the structure of my own narrative ideas for some reason. For example, is the build up to the point where the machine stops shaking and relaxes long and tense enough? I don't reckon it is, but I reeeeaaaaally can't say that with 100% confidence. I had no such qualms when I was putting together the Lyre Of Orpheus piece, mainly because the structure was laid out in front of me already. It'll be interesting to see how it comes across on Thursday when I present it to the rest of the class - I'm going to deliberately say nothing about it beforehand and then ask them for feedback after, and see whether they get what's going on or not.

Not that it's bloody War And Peace, like.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Marvin - Half Way There

I'm half way through my intensive week of Marvin production, and this is what I've got so far. It's just lumped together in Quicktime so the pacing and editing is blatantly rubbish. It's going ok though I think - I'm making alterations to the storyboard and structure as I go. I'm a bit worried about how the button sequence and the build up of the machine getting out of control (here's the script again, if you have no idea what I'm on about) will work without being just a boring sequence of button pressing and rubbish close ups of Marvin's face. It should all become clear when I start editing the shots together properly though.

Marvin - Work In Progress from Retchy on Vimeo.

Another concern I have is the difference in styles between the intro and the rest of the film. Does it make sense, or does it seem a bit pointless and incongruous? I dunno - I think I might use the shot as bookends to the beginning and end of the film. We'll see...

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Sound Re-design

Here's the result of my first week or so working on the project.

Sound Re-Design - First Go from Retchy on Vimeo.

Pretty shit really. I've laid down the basic sounds, but it just lacks any subtlety at the moment. And I really don't know what to do about the start. Or the middle. Hmmmm, I need to record some more stuff I think, and attempt to fill the space more convincingly. That repetitive sound is far too, err, repetitive - I'm trying to build up the tension with the beat of the pulsing image, but I don't think it's really working at the moment. I'll try fiddling with the automation on the EQ and reverb I think, see if I can make any progress going down that route...

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Marvin Intro Finished

Here we go, I spent all week tweaking and editing and masking this, which is far too long because I have to have a film finished in three and a bit weeks. It ain't going to happen if I carry on in this style. However, after an encouraging tutorial with Joy today, I have come up with a stripped down, workable storyboard that I should be able to get done in time. I've kind of been forced into coming up with a way to communicate the story using as simple a style of animation as I can get away with, and with as few shots as possible. So to get in the right frame of mind for this, I fooled myself into thinking that I would definitely be performing this live with an OHP and acetates so that I'd have to simplify everything. And it worked. I think.

Marvin Intro Again from Retchy on Vimeo.

Like I said, I don't have time to film everything like this as well as go through the editing and post processes, and do the other two projects that I have on the go as well. I've decided therefore to lock myself in my room for the whole of next week with my copy of After Effects until I have all of the shots animated, edited together and ready for putting some simple sound on the week after.

Wish me luck!

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Marvin Mumblings

I've been trying to storyboard this today and have realised that there is actually quite a lot of animation in the script. The plan was to do the intro and the ending using live action bits like the test below and to animate the rest properly, but I really don't think I'll have the time to pull this off to the kind of standard I want to. I think I'll have to keep it all very simple, almost animatic style animation like I did for The Lyre Of Orpheus, but a bit more controlled. This isn't going to be assessed on the animation after all - it's about narrative structure.

This post has mainly been for getting my head straight.

Saturday, 9 February 2008

Marvin Intro Test

A quick test for the intro to the film - this is really rough at the moment, I'll be changing a few things when I film it properly on Monday. The title will be put over the top in After Effects because it's causing problems when I come to wipe the ink away - that was supposed to happen a lot quicker than it does here. I'm also going to try doing it all in one take and have the planet stuck up while the screen is blacked out as opposed to being there from the start.

Marvin Intro Test from Retchy on Vimeo.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

The Seven Basic Plots

I've been skimming (it's a biiiig book) through 'The Seven Basic Plots - Why We Tell Stories' by Christopher Booker. I had heard of the theory before but didn't realise anyone had actually taken it this far. I've been trying to figure out which category my script for the narrative project might fall under. I guess it's kind of like 'overcoming the monster', or 'man vs machine' as other lists would have it, but in it's most basic stripped down form. My story is more just something that happens, although I guess it does have a hero of sorts.

I don't know about this theory anyway - there are others that claim five, twenty or thirty-six plots, but Booker claims that they can all be broken down to include certain elements or combinations of elements of these underlying seven ideas. It seems to sanitise it a bit as well...I'd rather just read or experience stories and be sucked into their world, regardless of where they happen to fit into this theory...

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Sound Re-design

This is what I've ended up going for for the sound re-design project - just up until the bit where it changes drawing style, not the whole thing. I was a bit unsure about it to start with, but the more I've thought about it the more I reckon to the possibilities. I quite like the fact that it's a music video, because it means I don't have to fight against a proper sound track that's already there.

'Curare' by Bulgari

Obviously there's that pulsating beat to contend with, but I think it'll be interesting to play about with certain sounds building up, repeating and coming in and out with each burst of light. Initial thoughts involve radio static. And you can't get much more exciting than that for an initial thought...

Tuesday, 5 February 2008


I've had this idea for ages, since I saw footage of dust devils on Mars like this on The Sky At Night a few years ago.

I don't know if it's any good or if it makes sense to anybody else, or whether it needs lots of development etc, but I kinda like how it is in my head. It's simple, but probably a bit obscure for anyone to get what it's about - I mean, does anyone actually watch The Sky At Night? Or does it matter?

Anyway, here's the script I wrote ages ago. I'm working on a re-write to get a bit more of a story in there, but let me know what you think...I'm thinking about taking this on for the second part of the Narrative module, using similar techniques to The Lyre Of Orpheus thing I did, but with more traditionally animated bits.

Sunday, 3 February 2008


Just had to draw your attention to this bloke's stuff, it's awesome. Here's his blog, and this is one of his films. Check them all out though - it was impossible to choose just one.

fantoche from blu on Vimeo.

I love how he manages to control the camera moves in those. It looks like he's making another one of these at the moment on a much bigger scale. Can't wait to see it...

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Sound Re-design

I don't really have much of an idea about what I want to do for this at the moment. I need to choose a clip of animation and re-design it's soundtrack. There are a couple of films on Vimeo that I'm thinking about using (if their creators will let me of course), but I'm still not sure there's enough about them to get stuck into. Here they are...

Lo Fi from Fayce Booke on Vimeo.

LiGnE from nikodio on Vimeo.

I really like both of them, but the first one's a bit too abstract and the second one doesn't really vary too much visually - I want something that has a bit more grounding in reality as well, so I can do more things with it and change it's context and meaning. I've started a thread on Vimeo's forums to see if anybody's got a film they think might be suitable and they wouldn't mind letting me use.

Edit: no takers on there. Oh well. One bloke did PM me though and pointed me towards this weird film. Not really what I'm after though...

Friday, 1 February 2008

The Lyre Of Orpheus

This is the first project for the Narrative: Forms and Structures elective. I screwed up a couple of bits because I had rehearsed it as a front projection and this ended up being projected from behind, which meant it was all reversed for the audience. Other than that, I think it went pretty well. My decision to use the Nick Cave song restricted me a bit though - I was maybe too tied down to the lyrics and trying to figure out how to represent them all on screen, as opposed to using the song as a framework for my own interpretation. Having said that though, Cave's vocals and the structure of the song do kind of demand your attention and it probably would have ended up a completely confused mess if I hadn't taken their lead...

The Lyre Of Orpheus from Retchy on Vimeo.

I really enjoyed the whole process of this project actually, after much pissing about trying to decide what I was going to do for it. All the preparation was done in about three days, most of which was spent just working out how to tackle each verse of the song. Then I rehearsed it, taped it, and changed the bits that blatantly looked shit. I'll be developing this style, with a different story, for the next project in the module - maybe using cut out animation and incorporating some sort of live element. I think this ohp process would also be really useful for producing quick animatics for other projects. Or maybe not, I dunno.

Other People's Stuff. We had a really cool morning watching everyone else's performances, and we all seemed to approach the storytelling differently, which was interesting. There were a couple that struck me as working particularly successfully - David and his two collaborators used images within images and constructed a kind of dream sequence for Little Red Cap, which was actually relatively complex in terms of narrative structure. I think everyone else went for a fairly straightforward chronological approach, but they still varied enormously in their style and presentation. The other that stood out was the lady (I can't remember anyone's name) who used ash to perform a version of Ashputel (that's Cinderella to you and me). There were some magical moments in her performance, where her drawings seemed to move and animate in front of our eyes, just through the manipulation of the ash she made with her hands.

Even these fairly underdeveloped ideas and presentations were really enjoyable and occasionally moving to watch - there's just something about puppetry that gets to you (or me anyway).