Sunday, 29 April 2012

Maya Tutorials: Week 26...

Dynamic Bodies: Part 1-3

*The earring chain is done but the beads keep disappearing after a certain frame so that'll be fixed soon*

Hi-Res Body Modelling: Video 1-2


Hi-Res Head model, Part 1: 


Psycho House Displacement Ambient Occlusion:



*My third attempt and it still isn't working. Although at least it isn't disappearing anymore*

Render Layers:



Tomm Moore's 'The Secret of Kells', 2009...

Fig. 1 The Secret of Kells poster.


The Secret of Kells is one of the most stunning animations you could watch.  Its swirling imagery of thriving forests to child-like chalk drawings on slate can be too much for the eye to take in, but this just makes it all the more wondrous.

Fig. 2 Dramatic visual style.
The aesthetics running through this film are what makes it so fantastically unique. Deeply rooted in both Celtic mythology and Christian art, it is constantly re-using iconic shapes and imagery to make sure the authenticity is never lost. Empire's, Helen O'Hara explained that "the art is astonishing – real snippets from the Book are shown, and its motifs and themes echo through the film in tiny details, especially in the scenes where Aisling introduces Brendan to the glories of the forest.." (O'Hara, 2010) The 'Book' she mentions is the Book of Kells. A stunningly illuminated version of the New Testament, found in Dublin, Ireland. Its illustrations are so intricate that its unbelievable that they were made circa 800 by human hands.  Each of the curling lines and intricate patterns is mirrored in all aspects of design.  In the environments, such as in fig. 1, everything is made from circles and curled lines, much like the illustrations in the book, and found in Celtic design.  The environments scream Celtic influences, all the complex patterns being suggested in everything from the seemingly 2D representation of space to the chalk blueprints s scrawled across the walls.

Fig. 3 Character Design.

Not only is the environment design stunning, but the character design is even more fascinating.  Each character is specifically 'shaped' for their personality and purpose in the narrative. Some of the shapes are so visually simple but their impact on the viewer is instant and powerful.  Sophie Ivan, Film4 critic, believes that "the abstract, stylized nature of the design - so far removed from the pristine hyper-realism so much popular animation strives for - creates an ethereal, numinous universe. It has hints of the magical silhouette animations of Lotte Reiniger, but is really unlike anything you've seen before." (Ivan, 2009) The design is incredibly simplistic, as simple as a well crafted silhouette, but just as powerful as a realistic portrayal of a person. Perhaps it is so much more effective because everything the audience reads from these designs is from a few suggestive lines and a well chosen shape. One of the most wonderful designs is Aisling, the spritely young forest spirit. She is as white as a ghost and flows around like one, her hair curling around as she spins and darts about the treetops.  Her wolf form is as round and pointed as she is, with the same emerald oval eyes.  Another is the Abbot of Kells' shape. He is the same shape as the window he watches from. As soon as the audience sees this, they know how long he must spend up there, with his neck already craned from the strain of watching over others.  All these simple suggestions make for a wonderful set of designs.

The Secret of Kells is a beautiful film, and because of its qualities, was nominated for an Oscar in 2010, but lost out to Pixar's Up. One reason this nomination is so important is because it is such a small film. Zahra Dowlatabadi and Catherine Winder exposed that "Films such as The Secret of Kells...have achieved critical success with much lower budgets than those of the typical major studio release." (Dowlatabadi, Winder, 2011: 64) It was mostly made between Ireland and Belgium, within a small team.  It is always fascinating to see what can be achieved in such a small group that are talented and driven.  Although it is a shame to have lost out at the Oscars, the film has earned some very well deserved honours and can be held as an original and inspired chunk of Irish, and animation, history.

List of Illustrations

Figure 1. The Secret of Kells (2009) The Secret of Kells poster. At: (Accessed on: 29.04.12)

Figure 2. The Secret of Kells (2009) Dramatic visual style. At: (Accessed on: 29.04.12)

Figure 3. The Secret of Kells (2009) Character design. At: (Accessed on: 29.04.12)


 O'Hara, Helen (2010) The Secret of Kells. In: Empire 28.09.2010 [online] At:  (Accessed on: 29.04.12)

Dowlatabadi, Zahra, Winder, Catherine (2011) Producing Animation. USA: Focal Press

Ivan, Sophie (2009) The Secret of Kells. In: At: (Accessed on: 29.04.12)

Friday, 27 April 2012

Day 5: Improved Fabulous Fireworks...

Much more sparkling and colourful: Now onwards to playing with particle paths! :D

Work Exp. Day 5: Fabulous Fireworks...

A few experiments with a firework made from Maya particles, that have worked pretty nicely:

Some have a glow on and some are just straight from Maya but I really like them. Very decorative!

Now to try and make shapes with them! :D

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Work Exp. Day 3 Continued: Animating Plants...

This is something I really love the idea of, whether for me VJ pack or for one of the two other projects. After watching Power Plants from Resolume, I decided to look into L-systems plug ins.  I've been unsuccessful in finding one so far, so instead I had a go at animating some of those paint plants found in Maya.

Here are the results:




These have worked really nicely so far. Granted, the animation is a little too jerky at the moment, either because the timing's off or because the values I adjusted weren't quite right. However, with a little practice, I'll learn exactly what values adjust what parts, and then the growth will be much more natural.

I'd also like to learn more about how make more illustrative growth in After Effects but that will take a bit more research. Really exciting though, and still a lot of fun! :)

Work Exp. Day 3: Smoke and Particle Experiments...

I liked the idea of a sparkling smoke so I thought I'd have a got with making smoke in Maya.Here's a quick test that was tweaked in After Effects:

Something I'd really like to try next would be drawing something with particles. I'll need to have a look at some past tutorials but I love the idea of drawing a mouth or a shoe or something similar in sparkling particles.

In the meantime though, here are a few extra experiments with the sparkling particles, slightly tweaked, from yesterday:

I'm going to play around with making them weave around curves next. Onwards and upwards! :D

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Work Exp. Day 2: Particle Experiment...

As one of the things I want to learn more about is particle dynamics in Maya and After Effects, I decided I'm going to go through all the previous particle tutorials and note down any useful expressions and techniques that I could use later.

Below is my own tweaking of the Pixie Dust tutorial:

I emitted the particles from a plane I shaped very roughly like a piece of cloth, it wasn't until I got it into After Effects that I realised it looks much better with just the particles.  After this realisation I decided that next I'll use a smaller object to sweep across the screen so that the particles' tail fans out nicely.

I'm really looking forward to seeing what I can do next, so far particles are very exciting! :D

Monday, 23 April 2012

Work Experience: Day 1...

Today was the first day of Work Experience.It was a really exciting briefing with some very exciting possibilities!

I've been looking into different techniques I'd like to learn more about and most of them stem from this tutorial:

I really want to look into sparkly particles and flowing cloth.  We've all got to make a VJ pack as well, which would be a series of really short but really effective animations made in After Effects or in Maya. For these I would like to focus on an animated organic growth, I've always been really intrigued by these in projections. 
We were also directed towards a piece of software called 'Resolume' which is used specifically for these kinds of animations. I haven't downloaded it yet but I've been looking at the different styles of footage and below are some of my favourite examples:

Power Flowers:

A really nice example of organic growth but with a really nice pulsing animation that would work well with music too.

Orange Strings:


Lively particles that zip around of their own accord. I like that they have tails, it can lead to some really nice spiralling effects.

Partikel Storm:

There are a lot of lovely examples of water-like waves of particles here. Theis soft glow and movement is something I'd really like to capture.

Colour Over Life:

This general softness would be great, along with the really bright colours. It could be a really nice effect if it then became clear and lead to something else being revealed.

Keeping things simple but bold seems to be the key here. I can't wait to get stuck in :D

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Maya Final Week: Part One...

Underwater Scene Completed:


Muddy Ball drops:


 Portal Lights: Photobucket

HDR Images: 
 Airbase Photobucket

Meadow Photobucket

Urban Photobucket

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Martin Rosen's 'Watership Down', 1978...

Fig. 1 Watership Down poster.

Watership Down has always been seen as a children's book.  Written by British author, Richard Adams, it is a tale of the extraordinary lives and adventures of a group of rabbits. However, the film carries some very mature themes and imagery that were perhaps not found in the book.

Fig. 2 Fiver and Hazel.
During the film, the audience is following a small group of rabbits that have narrowly escaped their almost certain deaths at the previous warren.  This was thanks to the unusually quirky young rabbit called Fiver.  He and his brother, Hazel are the main protagonists of the narrative. However, one of the reasons the rabbits are so compelling to watch is that they are voiced by wonderful British actors, such as the wonderfully talented John Hurt, as well as having well written ad likeable personalities.  Mary Trim explains that the characters, "In an ever rabbit way, they reflect human superstitions, struggles, hope and determination to survive against destructive elements. The characters are memorable: sensitive and clairvoyant Fiver, strong and aggressive Bigwig, witty Bluebell, hateful Black Rabbit who causes sickness and death, and the ever authoritative Hazel." (Trim, 2005: 121)  These characters, at first glance, are just rabbits.  With very few visual differences, they could easily be forgettable, but as Trim mentions, they are still memorable.  Their character traits, such as Bigwig's 'strong and aggressive' demeanour means that the audience always know that they, and the characters can rely on him to protect those that need it.
Fig. 3 Barbaric Woundwort.
Another reason the characters, and narrative, manages to be so gripping is the depiction of the struggles and  their consequences that the rabbits have to live through. Colin Manlove expressed that "Adams gives us a group of wild animals gripped by the imperative of survival, and a pastoral landscape bristling with threats, mostly from man. Death is always close, and reproduction its only answer: both these topics were unusual in children’s fiction before this time." (Manlove, 2003: 122) Due to this being a work of children's fiction, it would commonly be thought that it would be too simple for an adult audience to enjoy.  The lives of these rabbits though, are very similar to that of a struggling family, fighting everyday obstacles in order to get past each day.  However, these rabbits are faced with their own mortality, they are hunted and unintentionally killed each day either by farmers or wild animals.  These themes of death an violence really do make this an unusually mature piece of children's fiction.  Jerry Beck goes on to divulge that "The film is brutal at times, as is the book, not skimping on blood, and actually inserting two additional (and largely unnecessary) deaths not included in the original text. " (Beck, 2007: 307)  Not only are these rabbits faced with threats from outside sources, but they are even fighting threats from other rabbits.  One example, as seen in figure 3, is Woundwort.  This rabbit is violent and quick to hurt any other rabbit that should challenge his authority.  There are scenes in which this rabbit claws Bigwig, and another where it tears at another's throat.  These images, mixed with the very unsettling flashbacks from an exhausted and hallucinating rabbit, make for some very challenging and mature imagery for children. 

Despite its quite disturbing imagery, and the fact that it is seemingly about rabbits, Watership Down is in fact a very engaging and refreshing example of British animation.  Its solid voice casting and washed out colour palette really add to the tone of desperation and struggle that these characters are enduring, all in order to reach their safe-haven.  It was definitely the voice acting from John Hurt that makes it a 4* film though, excellent stuff!

List of Illustrations.

Figure 1. Watership Down (1978) Watership Down poster. At: (Accessed: 17.04.12)

Figure 2. Watership Down (1978) Fiver and Hazel. At: (Accessed: 17.04.12)

Figure 3. Watership Down (1978) Barbaric Woundwort. At: (Accessed: 17.04.12)


Beck, Jerry (2007) Animated Movie Guide : The Ultimate Illustrated Reference to Cartoon, Stop-Motion and Computer-Generated Feature Films. USA: Chicago Review Press

Manlove, Colin (2003) From Alice to Harry Potter: Children's Fantasy in England. New Zealand: Cybereditions Corporation.

Trim, Mary (2005) Growing and Knowing : A Selection Guide for Children's Literature. Berlin: K.G. Saur.

Sunday, 15 April 2012


I wanted to start on my presentation today, seeing as I can't render anything, so I started playing with different fonts:

This turned out to be a huge waste of a day. I've been applying them with different textures, sizes and shapes but to no avail, and I've doing it for so long but I STILL don't know what I'm using.  I want all the fonts to match so it presents well but I can't seem to get it right yet. It was supposed to be based on the kind of elegant font you'd find on the cover of a Hans Christian Anderson story book but none of them seem to fit. It's been incredibly frustrating so I'm just going to leave it and try again tomorrow sadly.

Saturday, 14 April 2012


Since my computers rubbish and I can't do any more rendering at the moment I decided to play around with the ones I already had:







I'm feeling a bit more positive now. These look pretty cool, and they'll look even better when the separate render layers are there to play with too. I've got my essay and technical paper done and I'm starting to catch up with the film reviews and tutorials now. Roll on Monday when I can get to a computer really! :)

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

More Tweaking in the Sea Witch's Lair...


I added a rim light shader to the cauldron so it's much pinker and blends much better into the scene. Everyting's smoothed now too but I can't get the rigging transparency to stop having ugly white bits so that needs to be sorted. I'll also add a few more greeny glowing bones/skulls around later as 2 just isn't enough really.

I'm going to have a day or so break from this now so I can get some other bits done and hopefully I can come back and start working on post-production side of things refreshed and ready :D

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Sea Witch's Lair Update...


The lights are much better now they're little mermaid's purse bushes :D
I also added a few rim lights to the figurehead, bones and the cauldron area so next is probably sorting out those3 pesky transparencies!

Monday, 9 April 2012

Sea Witch's Lair Update...


There are still a few unwelcome outlines on my transparencies but it's coming along really nicely now. I also changed the acidic yellow to a gentler blue/green on the light orbs, which I think is equally unsettling but much less offensive to the eye :P

Sunday, 8 April 2012

George Dunning's 'Yellow Submarine', 1968...

Fig. 1 Yellow Submarine poster.


Yellow Submarine was a surprising joy to watch and as charming as it is whacky, in visual style and narrative.

Fig. 2 Colours of Pepperland.

During the 1960's, when The Beatles were hugely popular in Britain, they had their own animated TV show. Sadly, it was not particularly endorsed by the band and because of that, they had little belief in the feature film that was to follow.  However, it was important to the film's production team that it was much more visually appropriate to their new style of music. This was all thanks to the discovery of German-born, Heinz Edelmann  Jerry Beck explains that "His flat, illustrative style that he utilized to design the characters of John, Paul, George, and Ringo, as well as all of the other creatures and locations in the film, was the perfect visual counterpart to the Beatles’ psychedelic music." (Beck, 2007: 321) The Beatles were just producing Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, their first album influenced by the psychedelia of the sixties and the producers of Yellow submarine had access to it before it had been relseased.  This allowed them to create a film that really is 'the perfect visual counterpart'.

Fig. 3  Abstraction.

The visual style of the film is very flat and illustrative, but this allows it to become something very psychedelic and transformative. Due to its psychedelic nature, the imagery used is completely unpredictable and seemingly random, but very charming in all its multi-coloured silliness. Caroline Westbrook believes that "Yellow Submarine’s deliriously silly humour, off the wall charm and wildly imaginative imagery (it might be billed as a family film, but there’s some seriously scary stuff here) paper[s] over any cracks in the storyline and most of the occasionally wayward vocal impersonations."  (Westbrook, 2006)  Yellow Submarine is wildly imaginative, it channels the same kind of unpredictable silliness that Terry Gilliam later used for the Monty Python animated sequences.  However, there are some particularly disturbing images, such as strange imaginary creatures eating each other and monsters with teeth in their bellies. Despite the few unsettling creations, this was made essentially for family viewing which is perhaps why it was so charming to watch.  Michael R. Frontani expressed that "the film is an inspired amalgam of animation styles that...provides the audience with a rich audio and visual experience while promoting the Beatles’ connections to a family-friendly counter-cultural ideal (lots of love; no drugs." (Frontani, 2007: 174) Due to The Beatles current success, it was important that the film contain all 'family'friendly' themes and images. The themes running through the film are ones of love and caring to others, leaving the only reference to any kind of drug in the psychedelic and kaleidescopic imagery.

Yellow Submarine is a great example of what can be achieved by a small animation team in Britain, that only has 11 months to produce a feature film in.  The constant morphing from one colourful creation to the next leaves the audience enthralled, confused but charmed and intrigued at the same time.

List of Illustrations.

Figure 1. Yellow Submarine (1968) Yellow Submarine poster. At: (Accessed on: 08.04.12)

Figure 2. Yellow Submarine (1968) People. AT: (Accessed on: 08.04.12)

Figure 3. Yellow Submarine (1968) Funk room. At: (Accessed on: 08.04.12)


Beck, Jerry. (2007) Animated Movie Guide : The Ultimate Illustrated Reference to Cartoon, Stop-Motion and Computer-Generated Feature Films. USA: Chicago Review Press.

Frontani, Michael R. (2007) Beatles : Image and the Media. USA: University Press of Mississippi.

Westbrook, Caroline (2006)  Yellow Submarine. In: Empire 03.02.2006 [online] At: (Accessed on: 08.04.12)

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Marjane Satrapi & Vincent Paronnaud's 'Persepolis', 2007...

Fig.1 Persepolis poster.

Persepolis is an autobiographical film full of as much heart as any traditional animation could need, but it carries a heavy soul with it too.

Fig. 2 Learning the cultural traditions.
The film is a personal telling of the escape of a young Iranian girl and her family from the chaos of the 1979 Iranian Revolution.  It was a time when the country was in a state of disarray, it's current monarchy under the  Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was about to be overthrown and replaced by a democratic Islamic Republic. The reason this film is so effective is because it is such a personal account.  Much like Waltz with Bashir, Persepolis is a first hand account of a traumatic experience for the protagonist and because of this, the audience can relate to and empathise with what is happening. Gillian Whitlock explained that   "These autobiographies are narratives of trauma that remain preoccupied with an experience of estrangement, a “little death” of the self and a painful loss of the known world." (Whitlock, 2010, 165) The film is about the struggle of the family and a young girl's efforts to try to fit in with a restrictingly religious influence around her and a new beginning in unfamiliar territory.  This estrangement is what makes her development so fascinating. She starts to be more and more influenced by western culture and begins to fall in love with the freedoms associated with it.
Fig. 3 Coming-of-age.
As well as being a story of the trauma of estrangement from your home into unfamiliar lands, it is also a story of a young girl's coming-of-age. The young heroine starts her life in the chaotic and restrictive country of Iran and spends her teenage years in France, a country full of freedoms and diversity.  For the first time in her life she is around the culture she has been so excited by and it allows her to become whoever she wants.  Hillary L. Chute believes that "Marjane Satrapi’s account of her youth in Tehran, Persepolis, along with work by a range of American authors, exemplifies how graphic narrative envisions an everyday reality of girls’ and women’s lives, picturing what is often placed outside of public discourse." (Chute, 2010:5)  Persepolis allows the audience to see the world that they would never get to experience otherwise.  The protagonist, Marjane, has provided them with a wonderful example of the life of a woman in her position. She is a refugee from her home country and she is struggling to fit in with a culture that holds her back from everything she wants to be.  Marjane is a confident and outspoken youth, that loves to live her life with the freedoms of western culture, she can't be restricted by her homes values, no matter how much she cares for her family.

Persepolis was a thoroughly enjoyable film that has a sense of humour even through the struggles Marjane and her family experience. One of the most enjoyable elements of this film is its visual style. Helen O'Hara expressed that  "This largely black-and-white, defiantly undetailed and sometimes stylised film could have been made at any point since the dawn of cinema, and yet it’s a thoroughly modern affair." (O'Hara, 2008) The themes of this film are entirely modern but its visual style is eye catching to say the least.  It originated as a graphic novel and its style has been translated to film perfectly. Its use of majoritvely monochrome colouring adds to the tone making is basic and clear to understand but the thick black adds to the atmosphere, especially at the more unpredictable times in the narrative.

List of Illustrations 

Figure 1. Persepolis (2007) Persepolis poster. At: (Accessed on 07.04.12)

Figure 2. Persepolis (2007) Learning the cultural traditions. At:  (Accessed on 07.04.12)

Figure 3. Persepolis (2007) Coming of age. At: (Accessed on 07.04.12)


Whitlock, Gillian (2010) Soft Weapons: Autobiography in Transit. USA: University of Chicago Press.
Chute, Hillary L. (2010) Graphic Women : Life Narrative and Contemporary Comics. USA: Columbia University Press.

O'Hara, Helen (2008) Persepolis. In: Empire 05.04.2008 [online] At:  (Accessed on: 14.04.12)