Tag 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.

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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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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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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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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.

Toy Story 3 top grossing Disney release ever in UK

Toy Story 3 has been No. 1 at the U.K. box office for four consecutive weeks. The movie is now the top grossing Disney release ever in the U.K. bringing in $90 million.

Toy Story 3 from Pixar.

World wide, Toy Story 3 has also become the highest-grossing animated motion picture of all time, taking in more than $920 million at the global box office to date, according to The Walt Disney Studios.

They predict that Toy Story 3 will pass the $400 million mark at the domestic box office this weekend, becoming only the second film released by Disney to reach that level. Toy Story 3 currently ranks as the fourth highest-grossing film in company history globally.

This is yet another box office accomplishment for the film which took $110.3 million on its opening weekend in June.

Finally, Toy Story 3 currently ranks as the number 14 film in worldwide box office history.

More info: The Pixar Blog

Pivot – a great tool for teaching children animation

Pivot stick figure animator is a great piece of free animation software that is ideal for introducing the principals of movement to children. When the software is first opened there is a stick figure in the centre of the frame. Each limb is jointed and can be moved by grabbing red spots with the mouse curser and dragging them. When you add a frame and move the figure a grey shadow is left in the old position in an onion skin effect. This allows you to judge how much to move the figure. Once two frames have been completed the animation can be played so you can check how you are doing as you go along. The frames also appear in a strip along the top of the work area.

The animation can be saved at any stage as a piv file and also as an animated gif file. Here is a 12 frame test animation that I made with the Pivot software.

The onion skin effect.

There is much more that you can do with Pivot. You can import any jpg or bmp image to act as a background. I created the background of the above animation in Photoshop using a few oval shapes and saved it as a bmp file. When it is imported it is added to all of the frames. If you don’t like the effect you can remove it and try a different background.

You can also design your own stick figures using a range of shapes. It is simply a matter of dragging each part into the work area. The four short animations that are included with the software give an idea of what is possible. They feature a man, a horse, an elephant and some dominos.

Pivot stick figure animator runs on a PC with Windows 98/2000/XP/2003/Vista/7.
It is a free download from the SnapFiles website.

Computer Arts Graduate Showcase 2010 call for entries

The Graduate Showcase is Computer Arts magazines’ annual compilation of the best final-year student design work from around the world. It is now in its 14th year.

If you are a final-year student on graduate design programme then this is your chance to get your work seen by over 20,000 design professionals worldwide. It is a great way to kick-start your design career. Entries can be made in the following categories:

• Animation
• Graphic Design
• Illustration & 2D
• Video & Broadcast
• Web & Interactive Media

The deadline for entries is 11 July 2010.

You can find out more details about entry specifications for each category by downloading the entry form. It is in PDF format.

Nintendo DS animation with the Colors! program

Colors! is a painting program that takes advantage of the pressure sensitivity of the Nintendo DS touch-screen to create a digital sketch-book. Animator Sheila Graber, who has been experimenting with it, told us; “It is great for ‘smudge and click’ as I used to call it in ye pastel days when I used 16mm film. It is SO much easier using this programe and you don’t get your hands dirty! I can recommend it for animators of today”.

During her long and illustrious career Sheila has produced a number of “face to face” movies where one face dissolves into another. Now she has produced one using Colors! called “Facelife”. It covers life from cradle to grave through various faces.

Facelife, by Sheila Graber.

You can find out more about the program at the Colors! website. There you will find a FAQ page that tells you all you need to know about running the program on your Nintendo DS, a gallery of drawings produced with Colors! and a page where you can download the program free.

Another animation program for the Nintendo DSi is Flipnote Studio. This has an onion skin feature so that you can see your previous drawings. You can also record sound and add sound effects to your animation. However, it does not appear to use the pressure sensitivity of the touch-screen like the Colors! program. Flipnote Studio is available as a free download from the Nintendo DSi Shop.

If you have used either of these programs let us know your thoughts about them in a comment to this post.

Computer animation – Bong-tree test

The land where the Bong-tree grows

Since my “Computer modelled cat” post describing how I created the model using Animation:Master I have decided to do a short animation based on “The Owl And The Pussy-Cat” by Edward Lear. This is the poem that starts: “The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea in a beautiful pea green boat”.

My favourite part of the computer program is creating models. There is a line in the poem that goes: “They sailed away, for a year and a day, to the land where the Bong-tree grows”. The Bong-tree is mythical so is open to interpretation. I thought it would be fun if the Bong-tree made a bong noise whilst bouncing like a spring.

Wireframe of the Bong-tree

The first step was to build the tree. The tree trunk was done by drawing one side of the outline in the modelling window of Animation:Master and using the lathe tool create a 3D tube. For the palm leaves I drew the complete outline and then filled it in with a network of four-point patches. The leaf was then copied eight times and positioned near the top of the tree trunk. Bones were added to the trunk and leaves to aid the animation.

The tree was animated with a combination of muscle and bone movements. If you are unfamiliar with the way this works there are some excellent video tutorials on the Animation:Master website that show the process in detail.

Select an area and move it down to start the bounce.

Having got the tree to bounce the way I wanted, I decided to place it on a desert island surrounded by sea. The island is the top part of a ball shape, coloured yellow and given some roughness to look like sand. The sea is a flat patch of blue that was given some roughness and sparkle to look like water. I animated the sea patch across the set to give the sea some movement. The sky is a picture of clouds on a vertical patch.

Once my test scene was rendered I imported it into Windows Movie Maker and added a bong sound using the technique described in my “Using Windows Movie Maker to assemble your animation” article. I also added a sound effect called “forest” either side of the bong sound.

Click on the pictures above for larger versions.

Boing-tree test animation.