Monday, 27 December 2010

Critical Study (Origins/History)

Animation through time

Animation has come a long way since the beginning of time and not many know of the historic value it holds.

Animation started over 35,000 years ago where paintings on walls of caves depicted animals with more than the ordinary amount of limbs to give the sense of movement or by showing the animal in the actual movement itself i.e running. 

Depiction of an animals movement

Following the cave paintings, humans had started to evolutionise and discover more techniques to create movement in their art. In 1600 BC the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramases II built a temple dedicated to the goddess Isis, in this temple he had created 110 columns or panels in which he had painted the figure of the goddess, in each of the panels he painted the goddess moving progressively with minimal movement, this was the first concept of key frame animation. The effect this had on horsemen was amazement when they rode past. 

In Greece they would decorate pots with figures in different stages of an action, when spinning the pot this would also create the sense of movement. 

Ancient Greece pot

Thousands of years later in 1640 a German priest and scholar named Athonasius Kircher had discovered a method to project drawings onto the wall using a 'Magic Lantern', in relation to this he created his figures on seperate pieces of glass and then placed them into his apparatus which then projected the image onto the wall. He would then in turn move the different glass pieces by using a piece of string, this would create the effect of a moving image like a slideshow.
The magic lantern was something new to people which led to new ideas being generated and one of the many ideas was to use the magic lantern to create scare shows, also known as Phantasmagoria. This was a form of theatre where images of ghosts and horrific beings were shown and made to look real. Around that time superstition was heavily involved in peoples lives, and many people could not bear the thought of this, causing the audience paranoia and fright which eventually led a ban to these shows.

Magic lantern

Magic Lantern show

In 1824 Peter Mark Roget had discovered the principle, 'persistence of vision'. This gave him an understanding that a humans eyes retain an image for a temporary amount of time (afterimage), hence why our eyes can't see the shift of one frame to another frame in a series of images.
Roget understood the fundamentals of creating the illusion of movement, which led to the production of various contraptions which gave the sense of movement. One of which is the thaumatrope. This toy was quite popular during the victorian times, the way it works is quite simple its a cardboard with images on both sides attached to two strings, and when the strings are pulled the cardboard spins, causing the two images to merge together. The classic version features a bird and a cage.


Following the thaumatrope, another contraption which used the principle 'persistence of vision' was the phenakistoscope. This was invented in 1832 by Belgian physcist Joseph Plateau. The device consisted of two disks attached on to a shaft, the first disk has slits around the edges while the rear disk has drawings, when the two are aligned and spun at the relevant speed you have the illusion of motion.
The thaumatrope was replaced by the Zoetrope (Wheel of life) in 1867 and was sold as a toy in the USA, it is a similair device to its predecessor. This was an upgraded version of the thaumatrope which consisted of a cylinder with a strip of drawings on the inside of the cylinders surface, when the cylinder was spun you could see the movement of the figure through the open slits.


The Praxinoscope was then invented in 1877 by a Frenchman called Emile Reynaud. He had improved on the previous two devices, and made the praxinoscope feature an inner circle of mirrors rather than the slits to look through, this gave the person looking in the mirrors a clearer, brighter and a more stationary image, unlike the distorted image which the zoetrope would give. He also improved on the inner length of the strip inside, giving a much longer sequence of motion.
Reynaud later upgraded his own device in 1889 by making it project images on to a screen using an even longer roll of pictures, making him the first to show short sequences of animation to large audiences.

In 1868 the flipper book appeared worldwide. The most simplest and popular device for animating drawings. The device involves holding the book from the edge while the other hand flips the pages, the pages would obviously have illustrations of something moving gradually throughout each page and once the pages flipped, it would result in animation.

In 1906 James Stuart Blackton and Thomas Edison created the first animation using a combination of photography and drawings. Blackton impressed Edison by his skill of drawing quite fast, while Edison was experimenting with moving pictures he asked Blackton to create a series of drawings. Edison later photographed each of these individual drawings coming upto 3000, he then put them together to create the first animated picture, 'Humorous Phases of Funny Faces'. The result was an instant hit and created laughter amongst the many audiences. Blackton is now considered as one of the forefathers of American animation.
One year later a french man called Emile Cohl showed a full animated film in Paris using inspiration from Blackton. He used the same drawing technique of white lines on black paper to achieve the effect of drawing on a black board using chalk, he achieved this by reversing the negative film. The unique point of Cohls animation was the fact that his story was sophisticated and had a plot, it was a tale of a girl, a jealous lover and a policeman. In his animation he gave objects such as lamposts and houses a persona of their own by showing different moods and emotions, this was a mile stone for animation.

Winsor McCay, creator of the popular comic strip 'Little Nemo in Slumberland' recognised animation and started to experiment with it. He used a flipper book to create 4000 drawings of his character, 'Little Nemo' to move, these were later flashed in Hammerstein's Theatre in New York, 1911 and were a big hit. His second experiment with animation was a short film called 'How a Mosquito Operates', the response he received from his audiences was quite enthusiastic, even though the contents of the animation was quite crude.

How a mosquito operates (1912)

Following his second animation, McCay set the bar higher when he created 'Gertie the Dinosaur' in 1914. Gertie's character was unique and new to animation as she gave off emotions, different moods and this for the audience was something new as the character showed a personality and gave them the ability to empathise with the character. Another unique point was the fact that McCay himself performed live in front of the projected animation interacting with the dinosaur and giving Gertie commands to follow, this wowed the audiences as it was a new style of performance called live action/animation.
Winsor McCay went on to make many animated films, including the first dramatic cartoon which was also the first animated documentary called 'The Sinking of Lusitania', made in 1918. This was a huge step forward in realism and drama as it was based on war propaganda and was the longest animated film so far, consisting of 25,000 drawings and two years of work.
Earl Hurd who was a pioneer in animation invented cel animation in 1914. This was a technique which made it more efficient and less time consuming for an animator by drawing less frames. The cel was an acetate transparent type of sheet which animators could draw on and lay over a still background, this helped animators by using the required frames for one subject to move and another to stay static, rather than re-drawing the static character over and over again which causes a jittery appearance. This was quite an expensive method, and was not used much until later on.

In the 1920's 'Felix the cat' started becoming more popular. He had a comic strip about him and now the character had entered into animation. These short films debuted by Paramount pictures were inventive and did what a camera can't do. The character showed a real personality and slowly emerged from a black and white character with no sound to a character full of colour and sound later on in the 1950's, which audiences worldwide had followed from the beginning and watched the transition.
An episode of Felix the cat

The Felix cartoons led to the arrival of Walt Disney's character, Mickey Mouse in 1928. He took his first appearance in 'Steamboat Willie', this was the first ever cartoon synchronised with sound, which was a turning point in the animation industry.
Ward Kimball had said to Richard Williams: "You have no idea of the impact that having these drawings suddenly speak and make noises had on audiences at that time. People went crazy over it."
Following Steamboat Willie, Disney created 'The Skeleton Dance' which was also the first Silly Symphony, a term used for a series of short films made by Disney. For the first time action was co-ordinated with proper musical notes, giving a great effect of story telling.

Finally in 1932 Disney leapt forward by creating the first ever fully coloured cartoon using coloured film, with 'Flowers and Trees'.

Five years after introducing colour, Disney released 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' in 1937, it was the worlds first fully animated feature-length film, with a running time of 83 minutes. This film raised the level of art in animation, with the drawings being so fluid, the film staggered the audiences with amazement. The film was made in 3 years using cel animation, considering the technology of those times that is an incredibly short space of time for a feature length movie of that quality to be made. This set the foundation and the standard for all movies to come within the animation industry. 
The budget intended for the film was $250,000, but rather ended up with spending $1,500,000 (estimate). The financial success was rewarding and sufficent enough to create the 'Golden Age' of animation for Disney, which gave birth to Pinocchio (1940), Dumbo (1941), Bambi (1942) and Fantasia (1940).

Following traditional animation, recent technology called CGI (Computer-generated imagery) has revolutionised the world of animation. It consists of using computer intelligence to create virtual images and animate them too. The principles of traditional animation are basically the same as CGI, the only difference lies on matter of tools used to generate animation on the chosen platform, that being by hand or by computer. One of the first feature length films to use CGI was Toy story (1995).

CGI has opened up many new possibilites and pathways for animation, that new things are being discovered just as they were from the beginning of animation. Animation itself plays an important role in media, film, television and the gaming industry as it has opened up many gateways for people to discover since time began i.e. Stop-motion, 2D/3D animation, computer animation, hand-drawn animation, claymation, puppet animation, pixilation, rotoscoping, motion capture and many more. This art form will continue to grow into many new exciting things being discovered for the future and has firmly planted itself into the present ground with its rich history.

Book: 'The Animators Survival Kit' by Richard Williams

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

11 Second task


When i hear the sound i can imagine a scientist in his lab, tapping some buttons and then he gets frustrated and starts to bash whatever it is he is trying to achieve causing him to mistakingly create a small explosion. Here is a moodboard for what i imagine the scientist to look like, almost like a slightly mad/crazy one.  

I also gathered a few images as to what sort of setting the laboratory has, i wanted it to be quite gloomy and full of things, i.e flasks, tables, big machinery, etc...

3D concept of a laboratory

Old photograph of a labaratory

Illustration depicting Frankenstein's lab


I felt that the following two video clips were quite relevant to my work, as i had to show keyboard bashing of some sort, these two clips show this well, even though there is a slight exaggeration throughout both of the clips. I could use these videos as reference when I make my animation.

Inspirational sources

Dexter's Laboratory shows a theme of working in the lab with some humour involved, therefore i felt that this was quite relevant to my work.

  I looked at the animation film 'Igor'. I like the sense of atmosphere and mood towards the theme of being a scientist, and want to bring this into my work aswell. 

I found this animation on youtube and really liked how the explosion happened, and I would like something of similair effect for my animation.

 Image References

Scientists glasses

Scientists computer

High angle

High angle (2)
Close up

Scientists chair



I felt that too much was happening, and there was too much movement from scene to scene so I cut one of the frames out (second frame).

I found this animatic much more effective.

[Pencil Test] 

* Some frames were missing some of the lab components.
* At the beginning of the animation on the second frame the scientist stops pressing buttons, and it doesnt sync well with the sound so i should extend the second angle shot so it looks like he is pressing buttons.

Final version

This was the final outcome for my animation. I felt that my animation was planned the way i wanted it to go, there was only a few alterations from the original plan, such as the extra frame i had to take out. I find that the explosion was one of the strongest points of the animation. 

My animation is quite constrained, due to my drawing skill. If i could improve the animation in any way i would make the animation more flexible and less constrained as my character looks like a robot with minimal movement and repeated actions of the arm. The only thing that seperates him from a robot is his expressions of the face. Another thing i would change is the smoke, I could have researched more into the way smoke moves, the way i drew it is quite constrained and looks more like a tribal pattern, rather than smoke which flows more free in the air. Also i should have been more careful with inking the drawings, as some frames show thicker lines, and some are out of alignment with the previous frames.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Critical Study (Animation Industry)

Gertie the Dinosaur, 1914

This short film animated by American cartoonist Winsor McCay shows a friendly playful dinosaur called Gertie. This keyframe animation was made in 1914 consisting of thousands of frames on sheets of rice paper. This was McCays third animated film, after the first being 'Little Nemo' made in 1911, and the second animation 'How a Mosquito Operates' in 1912. Gertie the dinosaur was one of its kind in that time, as the character Gertie showed a personality of its own and this was the first film to use keyframe animation.

Throughout production McCay received help from his neighbour who traced the backgrounds onto rice paper, while McCay did all the drawings of Gertie. 10,000 frames were inked and mounted onto cardboard for flipping through a machine to make sure his animation works. McCay also created techniques, such as cycling which later were used in the animation industry as a standard.
In February 1914 McCay performed alongside Gertie in his vaudeville act in Chicago. This was unique to McCay as he was engaging with the animation he created, he had a whip and would seem in control of Gertie, throughout the film he would ask Gertie to act out certain actions. It would seem that Gertie had its own 'soul' by being playful and expressing his emotions such as curiosity, sadness and playfulness. McCays animation was a huge success and Gertie became one of the first cartoon stars.

I find it quite amazing as to how McCay created this animation, with crisp lines and the correct form with movement. This work was definately one of its kind at that time and set the foundation for the future for all animations.

Final Fantasy VII Advent Children, 2005

Final Fantasy Advent Children is a science fiction film made in 2005. It was directed by Tetsuya Nomura and produced by Yoshinori Kitase along with Shinji Hashimoto. Advent Children was made as a sequel to the highly successful console game Final Fantasy 7 which was made in 1997.
The film developed by Square Enix and Visual works, consists of computer animated technology using motion capture. The film was released in 2005 in Japan, and a year later in North America and Europe. Advent Children had received positive views, selling over 2.4 million copies worldwide and was awarded best anime feature in the 2007 'American Anime Awards'. The original idea was to make Advent Children a video game sequel to the popular Final Fantasy VII game, but due to limitations from various things and the fact that 'Visual works' is a computer generated company, and not a company who creates games. The creators had no knowledge about making a feature length movie, hence they used their knowledge of the in-game movies to create this film. 

In an interview for Playstation magazine (2003) Tetsuya Nomura talks about the production:
'First of all, we started off from the project that Visual Works was handling, but they can't make a game on their own. We tried to see if we could make it into a game, but it wasn't possible due to a number of factors. As a result, we decided to stick with the original plan and work on it as a movie production. The development isn't too different from the way we make movies that get used in our games, but our schedule is a bit tight. We need to keep the cost down since it's not a game, but [we still need to] maintain high quality.'

The story of Advent Children shows 'Cloud' as the protagonist, following the after effects of a big battle in Final Fantasy VII and how he settles into a depression state, this could be due to many factors, one being due to a disease he caught or because he feels the guilt for losing his friend and the love of his life, his feelings are symbolised by a grey wolf who appears when he thinks about them. Throughout the course of this film, there are many scenes showing battles in an unrealistic manner and the general atmosphere is quite mysterious, as they didn't want to go for a realistic look, rather a balance between realism and unrealistic values. A lot of the scenes used motion capture but a scene which was unable to be done by humans, was done by hand. The production of Advent Children had problems along the way, as getting the characters designed into a 'realistic look' using only the character designs from the Final Fantasy VII game made in 1997, made it quite dificult.

In an interview for a Japanese Magazine Tetsuya Nomura said the following in response to
  'Looking at the visuals, it’s turning out to be a production with a mysterious atmosphere, with there being what seems to be a fusion between non-realistic and realistic styles.'
Nemura: 'A fusion you say… well, I guess it might be. With there being a very fine balance that is, in any case, hard to put into words. If it became either more realistic or non-realistic, the present balance would probably be lost. It’s something that’s different also from your usual animation, I guess you could call it a new genre.

I found Advent Children very enjoyable with the sense of atmosphere and mood which was conveyed brilliantly. One of the things i enjoy the most is the fact that it is half way between realism and unrealism, setting that sense of mood in that enviroment is quite unique and somewhat new of this modern era.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Anticipation task

Drawings from reference, looking at the body.
References from: 'Drawing figure movement' (John Corney), 'The body- how to draw' (Jose M.Parramon)
Body pose with motion




Squash and Stretch + anticipation video:

This video was quite insightful as it showed both anticipation aswell as squash and stretch, simple and effective. 

Found quite an interesting image showing different movements, also shows arcs aswell as movement required within a cycle.
acquired from

For my task I am going to keep it simple, so i decided that I will create a stick like figure jumping from one stand to the next, here are some references and research material I looked at, to create similair movements for my animation.

Final Animation

[Pencil test] 

* One of the frames is missing the left podium
* The first and last frames are set to 1 second
* The frame where he is about to jump is set to 0.2 seconds

[Inked Final] 

This is the final version of my animation. I could have improved it by using better camera quality, but due to time and lack of equipment at home I had to make use of what I had, which caused bad lighting too. 
I also think that I could have paid better attention to the last frame where he stands still, I wanted him to stand straight but I haven't represented that well, I could have added another frame at the end to help achieve his posture properly.