Author Archives: Guest

Animating Hartbeat

By Paul Thomas

I recently uploaded a collection of my BBC Hartbeat films to YouTube. This article covers the background story of those films. I am also planning an exhibition called Paul Thomas at the BBC. It will cover about 15 years.

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Hartbeat’ was the follow up to the classic BBC TV show ‘Take Hart’. I had only been able to contribute to two series before having to start again with new ideas for a brand new format. Tony Hart would be joined by four female co presenters. The programme would appear modern and have a faster pace. My contributions began with a telephone conversation with my producer and a letter containing suggested themes to find ideas for. The process would begin as scribbles in my note books. When ready a meeting would be arranged at the ‘Hartbeat office. I would arrive armed with storyboards and a very positive attitude. All my films for the programme were made in my home studio and filmed, edited and have soundtracks created at BBC TV Centre. I used cels of various field sizes and found my techniques and desire to have a textural feel to my films improved. ‘Hartbeat’ was my playground. I would have a lot of fun and realise a lot of ideas.

Tony Hart

Tony Hart

News of Hartbeat

A BBC film can label.

A BBC film can label.

BUBBLEGUM BILLY – I created a gang of friends in full colour against a background of black and white. The soundtrack was put together with music from the BBC library and vocals from David Owen Smith and the ‘Hartbeat’ office girls. This track is called ‘Base Pattern B’. The voice of ‘Morph’, Peter Harwood, created the soundtrack and all my soundtracks with the programme. This was to be my first broadcast reference to ‘Yellow Submarine’ such an inspiration on my work. My gang consisted of Danielz (from T.Rextasy). School friend Gary Florance. ‘Grange Hill’ actress Lisa East.  Kate Bush and myself in the lead role with stories using puns on gum hence ‘Gum Boots’ and ‘Choo Choo Train’. Seeking a grainy real life background Gary Florance and I went searching for an ideal street in south east London. We found it with classic Victorian houses and a front wall. My first offering to the show in 1984 had a visually strong style and lots of potential. However with the new programme structure of not wishing to pursue regular characters Bubblegum Billy was never to be seen again. It did make it into print though being the only reference ever to be made of my characters in the ‘Radio Times’.

The clapperboard I used between shots for Bubblegum Billy.

The clapperboard I used between shots for Bubblegum Billy.

Characters from Bubblegum Billy

Characters from Bubblegum Billy

KALIZASCOPES – I reversed the Bubblegum Billy look for an idea of black and white photographs against full colour animated characters and backgrounds. I suggested Tony Hart as the star but producer Christopher Pilkington insisted on co programme presenter Liza Brown. I worked out all the key positions for Liza and a photo session with Barry Boxall was arranged on the tenth of July 1986 at TV Centre. Chris was right. Liza brought so much more to the idea than I had hoped for with inspired facial expressions and poses. On receiving the printed photographs I worked out the animation using a video line tester at the Halas and Batchelor studios in London. This was an idea I was happy to continue with hoping to animate other cast members. That didn’t happen. Things were changing.

Paul Thomas and Liza Brown at the photo shoot for Kalizascopes.

Paul Thomas and Liza Brown at the photo shoot for Kalizascopes.

Storyboard for 'Sheep Skin Coat'

Storyboard for ‘Sheep Skin Coat’

TRAFFIC SIGNS – Producer Christopher Pilkington left the show and handed over to Chris Tandy. I had to be interviewed again as Chris was unfamiliar with my work. My proposal was inspired by a copy of the highway code and my being impressed with the graphic style. There was plenty of material for humorous gags. My idea of bringing traffic signs to life thankfully impressed Chris. I took a new approach to the idea and chose to cut out all the characters from black paper and stick them on cels. The back grounds were in oil pastel on black card. This gave a new visual texture to my work. I had finally broken away from inked and painted cels.

Traffic Signs

Traffic Signs

Traffic Signs

Traffic Signs

A storyboard for 'Traffic Signs'.

A storyboard for ‘Traffic Signs’.

TIGERTOONS – With the interest in ‘Traffic Signs’ over I decided to create one-off’s and make the most of my position. I would let myself go pushing my abilities into unknown territories. The cel was my canvas. I put everything on it. Paint. Pastels. Wax. Cut-out’s. Paper. Card and used the classic special effect of ‘Ripple Glass’.  My bag of tricks grew but play time was about to end. In 1990 I was told the number of animators on the programme was being reduced and therefore my services were no longer required. I spoke with Tony Hart about this. He was sympathetic and I recall a comment he made that I had not even been presented with a certificate to say I had worked on his show.  My animated work though had matured with such an experience and I had used the medium to greater success than with ‘Take Hart’.

Tigertoons

Tigertoons

Tigertoons

Tigertoons

Issac Newton - Tigertoons

Issac Newton – Tigertoons

A sketch from 'The Mole Film' for Tigertoons.

A sketch from ‘The Mole Film’ for Tigertoons.

Three cels in animated sequence from 'The Mole Film'.

Three cels in animated sequence from ‘The Mole Film’.

Moon and Rocket - Tigertoons

Moon and Rocket – Tigertoons

Click Here To Select Your Free Stitching Cards Pattern

Money Saving Tips for 3D Animation

Thank you to Kate Sorenson and her couponing team for contributing this article. Kate and her team run the blog, Coupon Cravings, a site full of great deals and clever ways to save.

3D animation is engaging, creative and fun. It can also be a great tool for teaching and school projects. However, the costs of animation can outweigh the benefits. If you need some tips for lowering your artistic expenses, look no further. Take advantage of the following tips to help you cut down costs on your animation projects. Whether animation is a hobby or a lifelong passion, these tricks will help you save money by whittling away unnecessary expenditures.
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Out Of My Mind – My Animated Adventure – Part 3 of 3

Paul Thomas continues his brief autobiography of his struggle to find success as an independent animator.

This is a little known fact. I had met with Anne Wood (creator of the Teletubbies) and cast as one of thirteen animators she sought for a new children’s TV series called The Magic Mirror. A major company was brought in to finance the series but were unhappy with Anne’s choice of animators. They required a competition to choose a new set of thirteen. I wasn’t chosen but the series was axed having been broadcast I believe, only once as it blatantly promoted the financers. Gary Glitter was the narrator for one episode!

The Paint family and The Christmas Tree production cel.

Anne Gobi formed a rebel alliance and took The Paint Family elsewhere to find funding.
Many countries were happy to take the series once made. It was left to the UK to supply the money. Anne informed me a producer was willing to do just that but would make a final decision on returning from a holiday. When Dan Maddicott returned from his holiday he said no. The rebel alliance collapsed.
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Out Of My Mind – My Animated Adventure – Part 2 of 3

Paul Thomas continues his brief autobiography of his struggle to find success as an independent animator.

Julian Holdaway was a great help. A rostrum cameraman based in Bob Godfrey’s basement. He introduced me to books, people and places in the animated world and helped sustain my desire for knowledge of my craft. I had learnt a lot in a very short space of time.

Production cel from Hartbeat.


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Out Of My Mind – My Animated Adventure – Part 1 of 3

This guest post by Paul Thomas gives us a brief autobiography of his struggle to find success as an independent animator.

Animate – verb – to make alive or lively.

A young Paul Thomas at the lightbox

On Christmas day 1966 my present of an Action Man went missing then reappeared later that day. Where had he been? In the new year of 1967 my dad showed mum and I his Standard 8 home movie of our Christmas holiday and there was my Action Man animated on the screen. The seed was sown.
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Scratch – Making an exhibition of himself

Happy birthday Paul Thomas and Scratch

Scratch creator Paul Thomas celebrates his 50th birthday today (12 January 2012). Also, Scratch is thirty years old this year. To mark this auspicious occasion Paul has written a summery of his life in animation and beyond.


Click on the pictures for larger versions.

By Paul Thomas

I’ve been in the business of creating something from nothing professionally for over thirty years. Out of one particular day’s nothing in 1982 came something that would change my life.
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Cel Shading: the Unsung Hero of Animation?

Left: a computer graphics render with soft shadows. Right: a cel shader (also known as a toon shader) and border detection. This creates hard edged shadows with lines drawn around the model. Illustration from Hash Animation Master manual.

This is a guest post by Olivia Lennox.

As you’ll well know, there are far more animation techniques out there than the average movie-goer or TV watcher knows about. You can’t blame them for only really knowing about stop-motion animation, CGI animation, and what goes into shows like The Simpsons and Family Guy. These techniques are what ‘make it big’, and what can be seen on screens, both big and small, all over the world. But there are plenty of other forms of animation that don’t get the credit they deserve.

Take cel shading for example. This lends animation a ‘cartoony’ look which can be very effective in certain media. This form of animation has actually only been adopted by a handful of film and television productions; however it has been used extensively in video games. Perhaps the reason for this is that cel shading is easier on the graphics processor, so games can look great even on less powerful hardware. When cel shaded animation does make its way into film and television, it’s usually used conservatively, but there are exceptions as we’ll see. There’s an important distinction to make before we get into the cel shaded world: whilst there are plenty of techniques that use block colours, cel shading refers specifically to the cartoony rendering of light and shadow.
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