About this Blog

I am an MSc Animation & Visualisation student at DJCAD in Dundee, Scotland. "Once Bitten" is the working title for my personal project and final outcome short film. The characters in my film will be 2D, animated digitally, but the environments they inhabit will be filmed in live action.

"Once Bitten" is a story about a woman who meets a wolf cub alone in the forest, the mood is light and playful and about the pair of new friends escaping their normal lives. However the mood darkens when the cub accidentally falls into a human trap and his mother catches up with him and his new companion.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

New Rough Cut

I composited together a more up to date rough cut. It has everything i aim to have in the finalised film in it- at least in rough form, and sometimes in complete-animation-but-no-colour form. This rough cut should be close to, or bang on the final timing for the film i hope to hand in in a few weeks time- which will be helpful when preparing sound for it. It's also a good indicator of exactly where i am in production for everyone to have a nosy at :) A few people are helping me inbetween the clean keyed scenes and i have yet to start farming out scenes to colour....

Friday, July 3, 2015

Animation update!!

Ok, i've been withholding work again but here it goes:

Scene 6:

Rough roto

Rough keys

Clean Keys with charting

Scene 8:

Blocks & roto

rough Keys-pup

Scene 10:

Rough keys

Clean keys

Scene 12:

I've decided to split scene 12 into parts: the final pull back will be a part on it's own and the animation required here is Anna standing with her back turned to the camera with some wind movement through her clothes. This can then be placed in the 3D tracked shot. The beginning of the scene i will animate Anna turning on the spot the way i act out in the reference footage. she will then be placed in an empty shot which will be 3D tracked to place her. I've been having some trouble with this process because the empty shot doesn't match the reference shot, which can only be expected with a hand held camera... all i have to show atm is some rough roto to help me get my head around the beginning of the shot.

Rough roto

Scene 13:

Rough keys

Clean keys

I am preeetty behind on my personal schedule- thankfully though, Wendy has agreed to help me inbetween/ clean and colour which is great news!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Rough-cut Composition

I put together some of my final footage (pre- colour correction and grading) with some finalised line animation and tried out some 2D tracking and masking:

The only thing apart from workload that worries me atm is the length this rough cut is coming out at... almost double my animatic- probably due to over generous time allowance when filming. I'm hoping this time will go down as i fully animate sections and have to cut the footage to match the animation.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

I've been keeping some secrets....

I've withheld work i've done from public view for the past couple of weeks for... normal artistic reasons (fear of criticism both on quality and quantity).

But, a greater fear is starting to take hold: what if people think i actually haven't done any work? Well, first of all, i really shouldn't care what people think, but also...

Here's some animation I done did already, ENJOY.

Scene 4!
This scene still needs to be coloured

Scene 5!
This scene still needs to be coloured

Scene 9!
This scene still needs to be coloured

There is a rough cut comp coming soon aswell including all the tid-bits you see above so hold on to your hats!!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Final live action filming (hopefully)

It's been a busy and stressful week, although looking at these pleasant photos you'd never guess....

These are some reference and behind the scenes snippets from my 2 days of filming. I hope to god this is all the  filming i'll need to do, but i'll have to wait and see! Carrying make-shift equipment around a forest all day is tiring, and although I couldn't have hoped for a better team or weather - the scorching sun sometimes made for fast changing light and high contrast in shots where we didn't need it...  Working with friends and Kira the wolf stand-in was fun but working with a disobedient apple was not so much fun!

At the moment i'm putting together a rough cut of the footage we gathered and the animation i have so far, and trying out some masking, 2D tracking and 3D tracking. I hope that this will speed up the final editing process as it will throw up any problems i'm having sooner rather than later and force me to solve them or look for ways around them rather than just letting them be for lack of time.

At the moment the rough cut looks to be nearly 5 minutes long! That's nearly twice the length of my animatic. I know that we were sometimes over-generous with time when shooting scenes i had roughly timed in my animatic, I see no immediate problem in leaving sections that are empty of characters longer than i estimated as it makes almost no difference to my work load. I will have to be careful not to leave some shots over long and empty though for fear of boring the audience- Birdemic style....

Adam and I are planning to edit the colours and light across the chosen shots in the coming days, this will hopefully help to tie very differently lit scenes together and express the chosen moods of my film a little better.

 Kira and Wendy being scale references
 Kira filming some rough and tumble to help me animate my pup caught in a snare (she was having fun, don't worry)
 Turns out: Kira likes apples
Kerri and Kira being references
 ^Photos by Adam Morrow
Kira being a jet pack
^Photo by Wendy Wang

The decision of how to colour my characters is drawing close. I decided to hold off making  the final call on colour palettes until i saw what the final plates would look like, and now that will have to wait until post colour correcting. I have had a little play around though and am keen for feedback.

Numbers 1 and 2 also have a coloured lines version. Numbers 3, 4, 5 and 6  only have a black outline version. As you can see, i already have a fairly solid idea that i'd like the colours on Anna to include some sort of red for her scarf, blue/ green for her skirt and neutral for her top.

I was tempted by coloured lines in theory but looking at the comparison with plain black line art against a photo background from our filming days... I am leaning further towards black lines (also for speed and simplicity sake).

The rest of the gang with their puppy companions in my favourite colours...

I will be attempting to put together a rough colour script in the coming days to help me colour correct my footage. Once that is complete and i have some feedback on my character colour choices i can start working out how to best and quickly colour my animated line art!!

Thank you to my filming team:
Adam Morrow- Camera work
Wendy Wang- assistant and photographer
Qi Feng- assistant
Kerri- reference actor, assistant and dog trainer
Kira- reference actor and stick finder

Thank you to colourlovers.com for colour palette inspiration

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Story Surgery with Mark Grindle

I had an individual meeting with Mark Grindle about my personal project. His feedback was very positive, he said the story hung together nicely. Some small suggestions he had were: 

allowing more time before the pup has a negative reaction at the end of the film (allowing his innocence to linger a little longer while the audience understands before him what is happening); 

adding a slight zoom in or focal length change in the first person perspective shot of the wolf mother looking at Anna through the trees to emphasise the inescapable danger Anna is in.

I haven't spent time re-doing the animatic i showed Mark today after his suggestions since they were so very minor, i have made a note of them in my script breakdown though.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Script Breakdown and New Schedule

I had a production meeting with myself and took note of: Everything i said i would achieve by this point- completed or not and if so whether it still needs to be completed. The old schedule looked like this: 

Final 2D animatic is complete (recently updated to include 2 new scenes with one old scene that was really annoying me cut. The new scenes are important- they show the 2 main characters together in the same shot as equals seeing each other for the first time and their first cautious exchange)

Live action/ 2d animatic is not complete because final footage is not filmed and will not be by the end of this week. I also think it's far too late for me to be faffing around with animatics.

Designs are complete.

Character sheets are complete.

Final filming and editing are not complete.

Research observation is complete

tests are incomplete (i have written off "set dressing" as i would rather focus on animation not hard core compositing past what is strictly necessary to allow my flat characters to exist in the live action setting) I have not tested any compositing past having a meeting with a member of staff knowledgeable about vfx about specific requirements for my film.

2D animation is not complete.

Based on the new animatic i made up a script breakdown (as detailed as i could manage) which will hopefully help me keep track of my film requirements scene by scene and will help when it comes to filming my live action footage. I have arranged a meeting with Adam Morrow who is leading the live action footage team for this project to discuss how the script breakdown and new schedule is working for him.

 New schedule with updated hierarchy: green means high priority, yellow is medium, red is low. i plan to push for having 62 secs of complete animation by the beginning of July. This way i hope to at least have a film that makes some sense to start putting together a month before deadline.

I have acquired a live action reference actress for my wolf pup character! Her name is Kira and her and her owner Kerri have kindly agreed to accompany us on our filming days. Having footage of Kira for reference will help me scale/ place and animate my wolf pup character.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Wrapping up Pre-Production

Since finishing semester 2 i've been in a hurry to catch up as much as i can with pre- production for Once bitten, so that i can start production as soon as possible. 

I had a fairly good idea of what my pup should look like thanks to the work i did with Bimpe at the beginning of semester 2:

 But i still had a mother wolf character to lock down- with the wolf pup's design solid i had something to work up from, i also had my main inspiration from secret of the kells as well as Bimpe's concepts for adult wolves.

Not wanting to dally much longer in the designing stages i came up with a design i was happy with using what i already had:

I also made a turnaround for my pup:

 I produced character sheets to help me understand the characters in different moods and poses and to give me practise drawing them:

The scale of the wolves is stylized: 

I found reference of a real wolf cub with a human for scale as i wasn't sure how big to make the cub in comparison to Anna (turns out wolf pups are pretty big!). I knew i could make him slightly bigger than realistically accurate but needed him to still be cute and un-intimidating. I also want the scale of the mother when the audience and Anna see her in full for the first time, to be a surprise.

I was also inspired to make the mother wolf large and imposing, by the scale of the Dire wolves in Game of Thrones:

However compared to my original storyboard the wolves are scaled DOWN!

While making up my model sheets i played around with some possible colour combinations for my wolves. However i think it might be early to make a final decision here. I am tempted to leave it until i have final footage to comp the characters in to. 


Monday, March 30, 2015

Title Change!

Heads up! The working title of my film has changed from "Fall of the Wolf" to "Once Bitten". I felt that the previous title had been out-run by the film's development- now the film involves neither a fall of a wolf (owing to my decision to leave the ending as a cliff-hanger) or a seasonal fall (owing to the time for final filming falling in spring).

"Once Bitten" refers to the phrase "Once bitten, twice shy" obviously, and i think the literal meaning ties in with the symbol of the apple in my film, whereas the metaphorical meaning ties in with the film's narrative arc of innocence lost and the birth of a war between the wolves and the humans.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Research: Existing Animation- Watership Down

Deceptively charming and innocent: Watership Down is pretty brutal,  and attracted my attention in my search for good reference for one of the hardest scenes i will have to animate... my pup becoming trapped by it's paw in a rabbit snare.

I made a sketch of this scene to help me understand the poses and line of action better, and breakdown the things about it that make it disturbing and nail biting...

The pulling away from the snare seems counter- productive but immediately indicates panic and also the animal instinct to flee from danger. This is something i can use for my animation, however, i noticed Bigwig's design changed dramatically while he was trapped- it helped emphasize the danger he was in because he suddenly appeared bloated and withered, unlike his normal strong, sturdy and lean style. I don't think i like the idea of applying this idea too heavily to my own animation, i think the scene will be stressful enough for the audience, and i plan to convey the fear and severity in the situation through the pup's expressions and dramatically changed body language- compared to the beginning of the film.

I plan to also use my reference footage of actors portraying wolves to help convey the wolf's fear and panic, there is a scene in the play where a wolf becomes trapped by it's paw in a hunter's trap:

 "The Last Wolf of Scotland" also has representations of protection, defiance, and fear- similar to Watership Down which will be useful when animating both human and wolf characters in my film. Hopefully all of these visual aids will help me create identifiable character performance.

Defiance and protection...




Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Acting Reference for Wolf characters

I filmed a run through of an original play a friend of mine wrote, directed and performed in called "The Last Wolf of Scotland". All the actors wore minimal costumes and makeup and used their body language, mannerisms, voices and expressions to convincingly act as a pack of wolves. 

This is the beginning section of the play:

After reading in Nancy Beiman's book Animated Performance, about animated animals having human characteristics in order to create more empathy with the human audience i was keen to arrange for actors to portray my wolf characters so that i could use their expressions in particular as reference when animating my wolves, hopefully this will produce a more emotionally engaging animated performance.

Although these actors were performing a play unconnected with my film i found it very useful as many themes are similar- and this way i had not directed their performance in anyway- it was not how i had imagined it but how they had created it using their own methods.

I asked the actors a few questions after filming the performance and their answers as well as the results gained from the film data will be put towards the research for my conference paper about the authorship of animated characters.

My next step will be blocking my animation and using the human expressions directly corresponding in this footage to help me create empathy for my animal characters from the audience (Beiman, N. 2010)

 Acting: Koren Dumbleton, Eilidh Albert-Recht, Sam Bruton, William Edwards, Joonas Schroderus, Rachael Doran, Nicole Watson, Olivia Quick,  James McMaster

Koren Dumbleton

Adam Morrow

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Wolf pup development

 Bimpe's concept art, we met and looked at this together and made notes to go ahead with, i decided i'd like to mix mine and her styles for the pup from this point forward, and asked her to carry on concentrating on the mother wolf character.

The white wolf in "secret of the kells" has a very appealing sleek shape and is very geometrically put together- i wanted this to be a big influence on my designs

Chris Sanders' animals are so cute, i took inspiration from this- also, my hope is that basing both human and animal characters on the same artist's style will link them visually.

I love Meg Park's wolves and dogs- again very geometrically built

 My rough photoshop sketches, trying to merge the styles highlighted above with Bimpe's work

Wolves are easier to draw from the side.... working out some poses for the film and to use in my model sheet- and trying different shapes.

Trying different shapes of eyes- i felt like some of these made him look too feline/ female/ angry/ happy all the time

 working out how to make him look less like a cat front-on: lengthening his nose. It was suggested that he looked a bit squirrelly in the far left one, but i love it XD

i'm happy with the look of him here- which was me sketching out a pose for the final scene of my animatic. He has fat front legs and paws now, with a much fitter looking body compared to my animatic pup. He has wide set, huge, round eyes (this part i have kept from my original sketches) a long snout and a geometric build made up of diamonds and triangles.