Wednesday, 2 April 2008


Here is the final film. This is the full version rather then the Depict! version which is 15 seconds shorter.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

An update!

It has been the best part of a year now since I last updated this blog which is pretty shoddy of me. I figure it is about time I did though so here it is; an update!

'Operator' has been finished for a while now. In September I trimmed 15 seconds off it so that I could enter it in to the Depict! competition at Encounters Short Film Festival in Bristol (, a competition for films 90 seconds and under. I am glad I did this because it got shortlisted as part of the final 10 and then it won first prize! I was chuffed and very surprised. It was really good because Leigh Hodgkinson's film 'Flighty' which was made on the animator in residence scheme in Newport the previous year also won the Depict! competition in 2006. So that is two years in a row of Depict! success for the Newport AIR scheme and, with 'Operator' being only the second film made on the scheme, that is a 100% success rate! Brilliant.

That's the main news. 'Operator' has been getting in to a small number of festivals and is in competition at Annecy International Animation Festival in June along with the other short film I completed last year 'John and Karen'.

That's all the news.

Goodbye for now.

Monday, 11 June 2007

All done!

It is finished! The last two weeks were really quite intense, hence the lack of blog updates. I hardly slept in that time but managed to get the animation all finished and then a hardcore team of helpers (made up of Scott Macdonald, James Cox, Steve Ford and Aimee Hibberd) put a hell of a lot of work in to finish the backgrounds, the colouring, the compositing, the sound and the rendering. Some technical issues (thanks to a sneaky NTSC setting in After-Effects) led to us all doing an all-nighter on Wednesday night but then it all came together Thursday morning and much weary celebration was had with tea and cold pizza and people started going to bed. It was around then that I realised that some of the shots had rendered with a strange pixelated effect due to an adjustment layer with the wrong settings. I think my heart made an audibe noise as it sank. I finished re-rendering the last of the shots at about half 6 that evening and was finally able to call the film complete. I then returned to Bristol like a zombie, falling to sleep at every possible moment until I finally found my bed and past out in a very satisfying manner. I have now been sleeping most of the weekend which has been lovely.

There are still some tweaks to the sound I want to make but other then that I am fairly pleased with the outcome, especially for four weeks work. It couldn't have been done with out all the help I had; Scott's CG work was great, James's textures and after-effects shadows were lovely, Aimee's background work was spot on, Angelina's rain was perfect, and thanks to everyone who coloured stuff in as well, which was basically anyone who came through the door with a remote understanding of Flash.

I will post stills and a clip of the film in coming days but right now I am going to go and have a cup of tea.

Breakdown status; Came and went. Wasn't too bad.

Wednesday, 30 May 2007

1538 frames to go

Today was a better day thanks to lots of tea. I coloured a few more squares in on the chart which is always satisfying. Angelina Mok also showed me a test she had done of the rain. I think the rain in my film is going to look excellent.

Breakdown status; Bilateral

Monday, 28 May 2007

1756 frames to go

This is it this week. Non stop now until the end. Food is an inconvenience and bed is a necessary evil. I have animated 8 shots so far which sounds good but they are all some of the shortest and simplest shots of the film so it isn't really that much. My weekend was not as productive as I hoped. I worked out that to get all the animation done while leaving enough time at the end for compositing and sound I need to average about 250 frames per day. I decided to aim for 300 per day to provide a safety net. This weekend I barely managed 300 all together. This is not a good thing. I have decided to blame the kitchen for being too much of a distraction (having not had one while staying in Newport during the week) and I think that my progress is going to improve now that I am back on campus with out any comfortable things around me. I have animated two shots so far today so this has made me feel a bit more positive. There is still a lot to do though. There is also the problem today of it being a bank holiday which means that the canteen is not open which means that I have no supply of tea which means I had to buy a cup of tea from the vending machine. It tasted not entirely unlike toilet water, which is not a taste I have actually experienced but I imagine it to be pretty damn unpleasant and pretty damn unpleasant is a phrase I readily apply to the cup of tea which I bought from the vending machine. If only I had a kettle and some milk.

Breakdown status; Critical (no sudden moves, have a medical team on standby)

Thursday, 24 May 2007

2480 frames to go

I said woo out loud today. Although I waited until I was on my own. The cause of the celebration was that I have finally started animating. A mere two weeks in to the four week production. I started simple with the first shot of the cat (shot 4: 69 frames). This is so far all that I have animated which is not very good for a days work but in my defence I did spend the morning cutting up the audio for the individual shots and rendering out updated backgrounds with the new chair that Scott modelled. I also spent some time organising folders to save all the elements in to so that when it comes to rendering frames out and compositing, everything is easy to find. One thing that I have learnt from previous experience is that it helps if everything is easy to find.

So one shot and 69 frames down, 22 shots, 2480 frames and 12 days to go.

*insert expletive here*

Breakdown status; Early stages (care is needed)

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Workshop two, final animatic and Tim Rice

Workshop two was more of a success then workshop one I think. I actually did something that resembled a lecture to start with as I explained the way I go about making animatics and how important they are and that they are when you make your film and everything afterwards is just tweaking etc. I then got them working on animatics based on the ideas they came up with in the first workshop. I think I got them thinking about it in the right way.

Then Tim Rice the lyrical knight came through the animation studio on a tour of the uni with various cameras and minions in tow. The workshop had more or less finished by then so we just made ourselves look busy even though we weren't. Tim Rice then watched my film 'John and Karen' and said "I like that one, that was great". Maybe I could put that on the DVD cover; "I liked that one, that was great" Sir Tim Rice, Lyricist. It could go right under "My Mum liked it" Felix Massie, Animation student.

Yesterday I spent ages editing the final dialogue and animatic. Then I watched Blade Runner. Today I spent ages re-editing everything I did yesterday. I have finished now. Here are the second draft of the animatic and the third and (I think and hope) final draft of the animatic;

Second draft

Third (and final) draft

Now that is done I have made a chart ready to colour in and tomorrow I will definitely start animating. WOO!

Breakdown status; Ignorable (if I don't think about it, it is okay)

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Workshop One

Had the first of my two workshops today. It was a moderate success I think. Five people turned up in all which was five more then I was hoping for. I started by showing a selection of animated shorts, a Buster Keaton short and an episode of Paranoia Agent. I failed to give any insight in to any of them but it killed an hour and a half.

I then made a start on the list of activities that I had planned. Reading the scribbles in my notebook I realised that most of them worked better with larger groups of people so I had to scrap a few ideas and settled for two of the easier ones. These I failed to explain adequately and they achieved little more than coexing looks of confusion and disbelief from everyone. At that point I decided it was time for lunch.

The afternoon was better. I moved on to the main part of the workshop I had planned which was developing ideas in a free-flowing kind of way. This involved everyone writing a random word, then swapping the words with each other and writing a sentence with that word. Then in groups of three each of those sentences was turned in to a synopsis for a narrative film. Then a member of each group pitched their three ideas to the members of the other group who then picked one. Each group then developed each of the chosen ideas in to a narrative for a short film which they presented to the other group at the end. Overall it seemed to work and I think people enjoyed it. I'm not sure if they left with any new knowledge but I don't think they lost any either.

Tomorrow will be about animatics. I have a better idea of what I will be doing tomorrow. This is fortunate as we have to look busy for Tim Rice.

Monday, 21 May 2007

Sticky Toffee Dialogue

Today was productive. I recorded the dialogue. Daniel Barker got back to me yesterday and I arranged to record the dialogue with him this evening. This has not happened. What has happened is that I recorded the dialogue myself this morning as what was a contingency plan in case it didn't work out with Daniel. I then decided that what I did seemed to work and I decided to stick with that to save time so I decided not to record Daniel. I am still editing down what I recorded so I do not have a clear idea yet if I made the right decision. I recorded quite a lot; two toffee apples worth, averaging two bites per take. I felt very sick afterwards. I will post the locked-down animatic with final dialogue within the next day or so.

My team is going strong. So far Scott and James have modelled and textured the chair and a crate. Amy has modelled the radio and radiator. Should have a full room ready for rendering soon. Next priority is buildings and rain effects. I am doing my first of two workshops tomorrow. After that I intend to finalise the dialogue and animatic and start animating. When that happens I will say 'woo' out loud. I am also staying on campus until Friday so I can comfortably work in to the evenings (my best working hours) with out fear of being unable to get home.


Sunday, 20 May 2007

Toffee Apples

When items of food are consumed in an animated film it is vital to attain the right level of accuracy when recording the consumption of the food. It would be pointless to record someone chewing rich tea for example when it is ginger nut that is being featured; the crunch would just not have the right acoustic qualities. With this in mind here is a picture of me making toffee apples;

I followed a simple recipe of 250g of brown sugar and 110ml of water with 25g of butter. With no measuring apparatus at hand I guessed the ratios. As you can see from the picture there is a fair bit of smoke, this was around the point at which the fire alarm went off. I question whether a a Teflon coated pan would have been a wiser choice but perhaps not as I may have caused it irreversible damage.

I finally ended up with five apples coated in burnt sugar. They taste absolutely foul but they sound fine and that is what is important.