Tag Archives: video

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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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.

Oscar Grillo and Monsiuer Pett at Spine TV

Monsiuer Pett.

Oscar Grillo and Ted Rockley were featured in a article in Animator issue number 22 (Spring 1988). Nick Bamigboye of Spine TV has written to tell me that they have just added a recent video interview with Oscar Grillo to their website, together with the animated short Monsieur Pett.

Monsiuer Pett was made by Oscar Grillo and Ted Rockley at Klacto Animations in 2000. The film has never been shown on TV or at the cinema. It is set at the turn of century Paris, Pett is a little man with an unfortunate problem which leads to social disgrace who then finds salvation as a famous music-hall artist.

Oscar Grillo is well known for his animation work on adverts particularly his Umbongo ad made in 1983, which is still shown today. Grillo also won a Golden Palm award for his animation for the Linda McCartney song Seaside Woman.

Spine TV interviewed Oscar Grillo at his London home. Oscar begins by talking about a recent advertising commission. He hated it “because however much work you put in to it there is always someone in the middle telling you what is wrong with it”. He felt like replying “If you know so much do it yourself”.

Oscar Grillo.

He mentions his graphic novel, The World Is Round, which has reached such a cult status that copies are sold on eBay for an incredible amount of money, possibly more than he was originally paid to illustrate it.

Oscar says that his greatest pleasure is drawing. Through most of the interview he is seen drawing as he talks. He holds some of his paintings up to the camera and talks about what inspired him to create them. He has such a prolific output that he has five blogs on the internet displaying his work.

Visit Oscar Grillo’s Grillomation blog.

Editor’s note: Last time we looked the Spine TV website was down.

Animating squash and stretch – bouncing ball

bouncing ball 01Exaggerated squash and stretch is a great way to add amusement and believability to your animation. I have created a demonstration using a bouncing ball made of very flexible rubber.

This demonstrates Newton’s third law of motion, more commonly called action reaction. For every action in one direction, there is an equal and opposite reaction in the opposite direction; even if the object does not move.

bouncing ball 02In this case the moving ball hits the stationary ground with such force that the top of the ball keeps going downwards when the bottom has stopped. The ball keeps the same volume so the sides move outwards. The amount of squash will depend on the material the ball is made of. The energy of the moving ball is not absorbed by the ground; instead it translates into a reverse thrust and causes the ball to fly upwards. Now the ball becomes long and thin as it stretches up. Near the top of the bounce gravity takes over and starts to pull down on the ball. Making the ball squash a little at the top of its bounce gives the illusion of opposite forces acting on the ball.

bouncing ball 03I created the ball animation in CorelDRAW, which is a vector based drawing program. I made just one drawing and then squashed and stretched the ball with the resizing tools that are part of the program. After each transformation I exported the picture to a jpg file. These picture files were imported into Windows Movie Maker and dragged onto the timeline. The sound track was made with a boing.wav that I found with an Internet search. I dragged two boing sounds onto the timeline and adjusted their position to match with the ball hitting the ground.

Here is the movie that I made. Please let me have your thoughts in a comment to this post.

Cracking Movie Lad! The Making of Wallace and Gromit reviewed

Tristan Oliver.

Tristan Oliver.

Director of Photography, Tristan Oliver, demonstrated the secrets behind Aardman’s animated Wallace and Gromit movie “The Curse of the Wererabbit” to a group of 11 year olds in a video clip on the BAFTA website.

In very clear language Tristan takes the children through the process from scripting to animation using clips, real models from the films, drawings and stories. Near the end of the video clip he takes questions from the children who demonstrate a great enthusiasm for the subject.

A sequence I found particularly interesting was how they get the plasticine characters lips to move in time with the sound track. He shows a set of pre-moulded plasticine mouths that are substituted in turn to give the movements. That alone shows the great attention to detail that is needed to bring the characters to life.

Tristan Oliver has shot all of Aardman’s best loved stop frame animations, including The Wrong Trousers, A Close Shave, Chicken Run and The Curse of the Wererabbit.