Category Archives: Computer animation

The Staves Winter Trees Video from Aardman

Aardman have collaborated with Atlantic Records and British folk rock trio The Staves to create a visually stunning music promo to accompany their latest single Winter Trees from their debut album Dead & Born & Grow.

 

Aardman directors Karni and Saul talk about the making of Winter Trees:

“The weird thing for us about this video, is that for a song called Winter Trees we wouldn’t normally base a story in a forest with trees but saying that when we first heard the song, we wrote ideas down separately just brainstorming it… and we both wanted a forest. So we guess it had to be that way, its the feeling the song gave us. So beautiful but slightly sad and bare too – like a forest. Something emotional.

“Then we bashed out the idea back and forth between us – coming up with slightly hybrid animals escaping something and an ‘owl lama’ with a man/spirit on its back.

“We knew from the girls, the song was based on a relationship so we wanted to take it wider and further by showing creatures escaping a flood and hanging precariously of tips of trees. It reminded us of the fisherman who sit on tall poles in the sea, it was a very visual scene. We wanted it to feel emotional while not too twee and have a story that was symbolic of a relationship and slightly surreal.

The trees represent the three staves sisters in a very loose way.

The trees represent the three staves sisters in a very loose way.

“We also wanted to make the trees the musicians, so there are three trees that represent the three staves sisters Emily, Jessica, and Camilla in a very loose way.

“As for the visual treatment we wanted to base it on 3d laser-cut wood puzzles – which we’d been researching it for a while. We made some art work examples and ref images and Saul sketched the rabbit squids and the lama owl.

“After that we showed it to Atlantic and the girls, who loved it and gave us the green light.

“Then we had to figure out how to make it, together with Aardman’s animation and CG team. Obviously we are based in one of the best places in the world for animation, so we figured it out pretty quick. It’s a mix of techniques; hand drawn, flash and CG animation. None of it is classic stop frame though.

The Staves Winter Trees Video“We wanted that hand drawn emotional feel with the ease and 3D model feel of the real world that CG can give. So we mixed it up like we usually do.

“Then it was a matter of an animatic and making it look like wood, giving it dramatic lighting, deciding on shape/style of animation/colours and all that.

“The girls were very trusting in us and the vision and so we could just get on with it. It was a tight schedule and budget so we had to work fast and make everyone else work very hard with us. But they were all so enthusiastic about the visuals and song that they were willing and super collaborative.

“We are really pleased with the end result and the label and girls are too. It seems to have struck a chord with people, it’s getting quite a bit of attention, maybe because it’s something a little fresh visually that’s still delicate and has an emotional story.”

The Staves. Emily Staveley-Taylor - vocals, Camilla Staveley-Taylor - vocals and ukulele, Jessica Staveley-Taylor - vocals and guitar. Photograph by Dan Curwin © Atlantic Records UK.

The Staves. Emily Staveley-Taylor – vocals, Camilla Staveley-Taylor – vocals and ukulele, Jessica Staveley-Taylor – vocals and guitar. Photograph by Dan Curwin © Atlantic Records UK.

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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Blender gingerbread man CG animation exercise completed

The gingerbread man with a biscuit-like texture as suggested in the exercise.

Following my review of the Blender CG animation software this is a report on my progress with learning to use it.

The gingerbread man illustrating this post was modelled by following the Your First Animation in 30 plus 30 Minutes exercise at wiki.blender.org. It is a written exercise that guides you through the process of modelling the figure and making a walk animation. It has numerous illustrations and a concise description of the steps required. However, it took me much longer that the suggested 30 minutes. This was mostly due to clicking the wrong keyboard shortcuts and then working out how to recover from the errors. I eventually decided to save a new copy of the file before each major step so I could go back to it if things went wrong.
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The Blender Foundation – a new way of funding animation

Sintel (2010)

There is no denying that hand-drawn animation is out of favour in the commercial cinema. The trend towards computer graphic (CG) animation started in 1995 with Toy Story from Pixar. This was followed by Toy Story 2 and 3. The DreamWorks studios jumped on the CG bandwagon with Shrek (2001) which was also very successful and led to sequels. The last hand drawn Disney feature film, The Princess and the Frog (2009), was a disappointment at the box office when compared with successful CG animation.
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Blender – free CG animation software to rival industry giants

Sophisticated computer animation programs such as Autodesk Maya, Softimage and 3ds Max can cost thousands but there is a free program called Blender that offers many of the same features. Some impressive animation has been produced with Blender including Lighthouse (2008), Kajimba Trailer (2009) and Sintel (2010).

Lighthouse (2008) animated with Blender.


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Reallusion iClone – great software to practice storytelling


Screen shot from iClone video tutorial 'Scene Creation'.

There are many reasons why people are attracted to making animated films. If your overwhelming desire is to use animation to tell a story then the iClone computer animation package is definitely worth a look.

It uses the same sort of technology that powers the animation in computer games. As you create the animation it can be played back in real time to see how it is progressing. It can also be rendered to various movie formats for upload to YouTube and such like.

Some years ago enthusiasts were using the computer games like Quake to create their own stories. The characters from the game would be controlled to record short scenes of action that could be edited together to produce an animated story. In response to this people wrote software to make it easier to record game characters. Over the years this has resulted in animation software such as iClone.
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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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Arthur Christmas by Aardman Animations released

Arthur Christmas is a 2011 British/American 3-D computer animated fantasy comedy film produced by Aardman Animations and Sony Pictures Animation. It was released on November 11, 2011, in the UK, and is scheduled to be released on November 23, 2011, in the USA.

The film was directed by Sarah Smith, and it features voices of James McAvoy, Hugh Laurie, Jim Broadbent, Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton and Ashley Jensen. Set on the North Pole, the plot tells about Santa’s son Arthur Christmas, who must complete a mission before Christmas morning.

The story of Arthur Christmas revolves around Santa’s ultra-high-tech operation hidden beneath the North Pole, his family and especially around his son, Arthur. When on a Christmas night a single present for a very upset little girl is missed, Arthur must go on a mission with Grandsanta and elf Byrony using an old sled and eight flying reindeer to deliver the present before the Christmas morning. Info from Wikipedia

Arthur Christmas illustrations copyright Aardman Animations / Sony Pictures Animation.

“Visually, the film may not be as technologically lavish as those produced by Pixar or DreamWorks,” writes Robbie Collin in The Telegraph, “but the characters are utterly charming, and the astute use of 3-D lends a thrilling sweep to the sleigh-ride scenes, too. Arthur Christmas might be made of pixels rather than Plasticine, but it still has Aardman’s fingerprints all over it.”

Creating computer animation characters from drawings

Richard Condie’s La Salla - 1996.

I was looking at some movies on the Internet recently when I came across Richard Condie’s La Salla. This computer animated film made in 1996 features a character very similar to one in Condie’s cel animated film The Big Snit (1985). I was reminded of Sheila Graber’s words in her book Animation A Handy Guide: “…whatever materials you use your own style will emerge”.

Richard Condie’s The Big Snit - 1985

The thing that I like about La Salla is that it demonstrates that you do not need to emulate the Toy Story style of computer animation to produce an entertaining film. The characters and sets of La Salla could be created on a standard PC with a computer animation program such as Animation: Master.

The hands are separated from the arms.

Throughout his career Richard Condie has been an experimenter, always keen to move on to the next thing. Condie said about his move to computer animation: “La Salla resonates with my temptation to fiddle with the countless options available in computer animation”.

To create the film he first had to learn how to control the computer program and work out a way to convert his drawn character to 3D. I like the way the hands and legs are slightly separated from the preceding parts. This is a good translation of the squiggly style of his drawn characters.

He is obsessed with sawing.

He uses the computer medium to great effect with the viewpoint swooping around the set to follow his characters.

In The Big Snit his lead character was obsessed with sawing, he watches a TV show called “Sawing for Teens”. In La Salla the lead character is obsessed with firing toy cows from a cannon. As the plot develops he has an accident with the cannon and delivers the hilarious line “Moments ago, I had everything. Now, I have a cow in my nose.”

He is obsessed with a cannon.

In La Salla, Condie pays homage to his sawing character in The Big Snit by having a saw sticking out of the wall and a picture on the wall featuring the wife character.

La Salla is a good demonstration of how to convert a character from drawn animation to computer animation. It embodies all the humour and quirkiness of Condie’s cel animation together with the extra dimension that computers can bring to a work.