Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Victorias note.

Over the weekend I had to import the posts to this blog from two of my other blogs,
I did this so my posts were in the correct order, I tried my best, sorry if this is not the case.
This was a pain, I believe it is all here.
However... if you notice anything important is missing just let me know.

Advice from a caterpillar - by Victoria Cichocki

here is the link to my final animation. enjoy



Aardman website
West midlands animation forum
Hot animation studios

Books and magazines

The complete animation guide
Get started in animation
The fundamentals of animation
The Animators survival kit
Imagine Magazine
Alice’s adventures in wonderland

Films and television programs

Aardman animations - Wallace and Gromit
Tim Burton animations -The nightmare before Christmas -Coralline
Hot animation -Bob the builder
Studio ghibli - Nausicca of the valley of the wind

Monday, 30 May 2011


During the research and development stage of my project I looked at the specialist factors of my specialism which was stop motion animation such as how to correctly build armatures, making interesting viewpoints from the storyboard stage. I also looked at how professional animations used colour to appeal to there target audience. This really helped me make my animation. I found that some techniques worked better than others and although all of the materials that the professional used were not readily available to me I referred to there professional techniques when making the models, lighting the scene deciding on colour and the visual language of my animation.

In the above example A it shows part of the stop motion animation book that I referred to to make the armatures. when joining the models I found that I did not have the material in question which was poly morph so instead I used my initiative and moulded warm glue around the armature wire to hold it into place as shown in example B.

I followed a design process that was relevant to my specialism which included script writing, making a storyboard and animatic, recording sound, lip sync and filling out dope sheets to aid me in my project. I had a few problems along the way including creating the viewpoints for my storyboard, my first storyboard looking as if the animation was set in a theatre with everything the same shot to rectify this I looked at some examples of viewpoints from professional storyboards. I used these as a reference in creating the new viewpoints for my storyboard. I also had a few problems with the papagayo files for the lip-sync I found that if the files were not kept together this created problems when opening them up. Another issue I had was with the character voices I found that they were not the correct pitch for the characters ages and personality's and they sounded a little odd in places also some of the voice tracks had noise in the background that when played back effected the quality of the sound. To rectify this I used a program called audacity to remove the noise and change the pitch of the voice files so that they sounded appropriate for the characters

I chose equipment that was relevant to my specialism from the research I had gathered this mainly included the use of tools to create my characters and set for my animation, this included using a drill and pliers to twist the wire together to make the armature. I also experimented with lighting to illuminate my scene. Even though I researched into how this was done properly I still found I had problems arranging the lights so that they lit my scene. I found that I had several shadows on the scene instead of one. I found that this did not look very natural and real and would effect my animations appeal to the older target audience. I continued to move the lighting around and experiment with how it looked, in the end I positioned the lighting so that there was a key light to illuminate the part of the scene where the action takes place a light that was aimed at the ceiling so that it bounced off illuminating the whole scene and a diffuse light that reduced the shadows and contrast by creating an even light on the scene. I found that this approach worked so that my set was literally shown in the best light and this helped increase the overall quality of the animation.

I experimented with a variety of techniques to produce my scene. My aim was to create visual language that would appeal to my audience. I felt I could have conducted more experiments in the creation of the flowers because I found that the experiments that I did do did not work very well, I managed to find a flower that worked in the end but it wasn't my own. The time-scale that I set for myself made it so that I had to make decisions like this so I could stick to my timescale and remain on task and get on with animating.

To the left is an example of a flower from a professional dtop motion scene and on the right is the plastic flower that i made a decision to use. below is an example of one of the flowers from my experiments.

Comparing my own expriments to the flowers from the professional stop motion animation flowers I felt that finding a using an appropriate plastic flower was essential at the stage in my project to stick to the deadline, to achieve audience appeal and communicate the correct visual language. I felt that this decidion was a good one as it paid off and the plastic flowers looked really good in the scene they had a nice contrast against the other colours in the scene espeicially the blue background.
I had several problems with the technique I used to stick the grass down with as grass would not stick to anything for very long because of the texture of the plastic that it was made out of. After trying a variety of things including glue and staples I found that double sided sticky tape worked in the end.

I think that I did a good job of manufacturing everything for my animation especially the characters as I felt there were of a high quality, there were instances in my animation where I had to remake several parts of the characters because they had broken but this wasn't down to manufacturing faults it was down to mistakes made on my part like the instance when I got marker pen on Alice's face. This accidental mistake hindered the production of my animation because I had to remake the face and it turned out so differently in the end that I had to reanimate every part of the animation I had done so far which was a shame because I felt the quality of the animation I had done at that point was a high standard. it was absolutely necessary to do this because I felt that it would confuse the audience if Alice changed half way through. This small error led to further errors in the animation, because I had already bent the armature a lot during animating with the first Alice by the time it came to reanimate those scenes the armature had weakened considerably and led to the armature breaking in places including the left shoulder and elbow and in the middle which left my model in two halves.
even though I had looked at professional practices when making the armature I had to find out for myself that the armature had to be fit for the duration of the animation. If I had a chance to do it again I would have invested in a proper armature that was well made, strong and less likely to break.
I felt that these issues effected the character personality's that I wanted to portray as I could no longer move them the way I wanted, in the animatic and story bored I wanted Alice to act shy by twiddling her fingers and pointing her toe out, but this was not possible because of the broken armature so she just had to stand still. My animation was good on the whole but it could have been so much better if the armature had of been better or the animation had been shorter so there was less chance for the armature to be moved and be broken.
One of the technical qualitys I had in my animation was the lighting. During the end of the filming of my animation one of thebulbsin the lights kept flickering and this made each frame go from dark to light which I felt affected the quality of my animation. Because I was animating in twos I was able to delete the frames that were dark and just copy the frame with the good lighting so that it reduced the flicker of the dodgy bulb.

In the examples above, which are the same shot,you can clearly see the difference In the lighting as the bulb flickered. In example A it appears to be very dark espeicially in the left hand of the image where the light source with the dodgy bulb was but bin example B you can see a dramatic difference in brightness. The other images I had taken for this scene where of random lightness and darkness. Because I had animated in twos and i was able to solve this problem and get rid of the very dark shots but not all of the shots were light and dark some where all dark. I think that this factor reduced the quality of this particular scene even though I managed to rectify most of it.

I decided to film my animation at a frame rate of 25fps instead of the usual 24fps that is commonly used for stop motion animation. This is because film is played back at 25fps and I felt that doing this would make my animation appear to be smoother compared to other stop motion animation I had produced. I decide this right from the beginning and was able to fill out my dope sheets for a 25fps animation.

I thought that the quality of the images was good and this was down to the fact that I had put thought into producing the animation in a controlled environment. Compared to the first stop motion animation that I produced the quality of the images was noticeably better. I think that the good quality of my images for the animation made it look near to a professional standard. Below I have some images from a professional stop-motion animation, my own and a previous animation done by myself so I can compare them.

In the above images you an see some examples of stop motion animation stills with a similar veiwpoint. example A which is a still from a professional stop motion animation, example B which is a still from a stop motion animation from my current project and example C is my own animation from a previous project.
I felt that the quality of the images in my own animation compared to the professional one where of similar standard i beleive this was down to the fact i had used the correct lighting and compared to my previous example my current project was loads better. This was because I had animaed in a controlled environment. I think that these examples of my animation from the past and present clearly show how i have used my reearsch into specialist factors in the subject to increase my creative ability. Even though I have a long way to go befor I can make my animations be of a professional standard I am much better at stop - motion animation now than i was 12 months ago.

I filmed my animation at a resolution of 1024 by 576 which was wide screen I felt that this would give my animation a cinematic feel to it which would appear more professional and be appreciated by the target audience.

I think that the aesthetics of my animation looked good the colours worked well together especially when they were layed out on the scene, I experimented with putting all of my characters and props on the scene to make sure that they looked good together before I started animating.
When I was developing my flowers I found that they did not have much aesthetic appeal as the materials that I experimented with did not look good. After some thought and after I looked at some scenes from professional animations I saw that they had used plastic flowers so I made the decision to use plastic flowers rather than the ones I had made.
Here is an example of the plastic flower compared to the one I made.
I felt the aesthetics of these plastic flowers looked far better than anything I could ever make and this added to the visual beauty of the whole scene.

I put a lot of thought into what the characters and scene looked like visually. One of my aims in the brief was to make sure my animation was suitable for the target audience. I felt that the target audience would have a preconception of the characters so I to designed the characters especially so that they would communicate to the audience that the characters were Alice and a Caterpillar and that mere props were a mushroom, what I mean by this is that I wanted the characters to look like what they were supposed to be and I wanted to make sure that the audience saw this too as some examples I found of caterpillars and mushrooms did not even look like what they were meant to be, I found one example of a caterpillar that looked more like a slug than a caterpillar and I also found mushrooms that didn't look the part either as they had faces and looked like people.

Here are some examples of caterpillars from my research, I don't think that either of them communicated visually that they were in fact caterpillars I think that this was down to there shape. After seeing this I looked at more realistic caterpillars and I made a mind map of all the things that made a caterpillar look realistic. I then designed my own caterpillar so that it was obvious that he was a caterpillar.
I had a problem with the visual language of some of my caterpillar models as I felt that they communicated visually the wrong message and did not communicate what they were meant to be, this was due to lack of information of making characters like these. I went back to the begginning and managed to solve this problem by writig a list of all the things that i wanted my caterpillar to communicate visually and made sure that my final mdel mrt all of the criteria on that list.
I looked at female characters from professional stop moton animation to help with the visual language of my characters as i felt that some of the colors would effect there appeal and suitability for the target audience because they may communicate the wrong message visually. A particular exmple of this was when i looked at female characters from professional stop motion animations with a similiar target audience to mine so that i could compare what compare what colours the professional model makers had used fo the hair of these characters. As i felt the colours that i had chosen where not suitable for my audiece as they may communicate the wrong message visually.

Here are the colours that i had originally decided on for alices hair. Below are some examples that i looked at of female characters from professional stop motion animations.

These are te examples I looked at and I found that even though the examples where bright colours they were a subtle shade for example coraline in the far left has blue hair but it is a very subtle shade. This helped me to solve my hair colour problem by making me realise that subte shades were more suitable for my target audience.

For my final major project I wrote a brief which stated that I was going to plan on making an animation based on a paragraph from the book Alice's adventures in wonderland, come up with character concepts and design and create 3D characters. My main objective or problem that had to be solved was to increase my creative ability and come up with character designs based on other peoples ideas and create 3d models as I felt this was a good quality for a games artist to have.
The purpose of the project was to work in realtion to my own brief was so that I could use the reserch that i had decided on to develop my own animation.
The work that I produced for this project was some of the best work I have ever done so I feel that it did improve my creative ability which is something I planned to achieve when I wrote the brief. I felt that i achieved its purpose by creating my creative ability because I used references from professionals to help inform me and give me a means to be more creative. I used the information I had to create charters based on the ideas of the author of the book which was one of the main points of my brief and to create 3D models of them and making sure that while I did this i payed attention to wheteher or not they would communicate my ideas visually and be suitable for my audience.
My final outcome was fit for purpose because it clearly was recogniseable as a part of alce in wonderland which showed that I had used the ideas from the author to create the character concepts and ideas for the scene. I felt I did this well because these characters were already well known and popular so I payed close attention to peoples preconceptions of these characters so that they were recogniseable to the audience.
In relation to the brief that I set for myself I put alot of effort in making sure that every aspect of my animation was suitable in terms of visual language and appropriateness to the target audience. I did this by evaluating as I went along in terms of the appropriatness of my designs and experiments.I was critical and if i felt a design did not work or was not appropriate I reserched into that particular area to find ways of making it better such as the example of the hair colour above. I felt that I also had to make quick decicisions during the production to make sure that the animation was suitable and appropriate such as when i had to alter the face i made the decision to reanimate the whole thing again so that i did not confuse the audience. even though this set me back days with the production of my animaton I felt that the suitablity and appropriatness of my animation were too important to just not care aout a factor like this.
Parts of my animation were original in some senses such as the way the characters spoke I felt this was different to any other films and i putthought into the tone of the voices.Even though the character design itself may have appeared to be unoriginal as I portrayed Alice as a blonde in a blue dress which was basically the same as most other representations of the character. Even though the design of her was a little unoriginal I felt that this is what the target audience wanted as people have a preconception of the character Alice I felt that changing her too much from what people knew about Alice would make her loose her identity and would effect the story. The caterpillar character was original looking especially his green colour in a lot of Alice in wonderland film he is blue, it said nothing of his colour in the text.
Being original was not really what I wanted to achieve, the problem I set in the brief was to create characters based on other peoples ideas so this the option to be original was limited. There were instances where the text in the book did not provide me with enough detail to create things exactly such as the design of the hookah pipe, flowers and mushroom so in these cases I was a little more free to be creative.
I managed my time well during my animation, if i had nt done this i would not have had any extra time to perfect and correct the problems that i had a long the way and there were many problems with the animation. I put my time to good use and made decisions based on how much time I had left and whether or not it was practical in the time I had to make do with some aspects of my animation rather than start over.
Those who watched my animation found it very appealing to the point where they wanted to see more than the 1 minutes 50 of animation that I had created. I felt the use of conversation in my animation was appealing to my older audience and the voices really made it appealing also as they were quite funny.
I felt the overall good design of the scene and the props and characters combined with the correct lighting and good quality images all helped to make this animation very appealing to its audience.
On reflection if I were to ever make another stop motion animation I would conduct more experiments into the creation of the characters and into there movements. I felt it was problems with the characters that hinderd me most along the way.

One of the problems I had regarding the specialist factors of my animation was one of the shots camera angles. There was a particular scene where Alice had to walk to the mushroom. I found very difficult to get a shot that included the whole of Alice without the caterpillar showing as she was a large character and I found that moving the camera back resulted in the area surrounding the scene to be visible, so I made a decision to just include part of Alice in the shot.
The reason that the caterpillar could not be seen was because he wasn't meant to appear in the story until a certain point. On reflection I suppose I could have just removed him from the mushroom, but I felt that that would be strange because it would appear that he had appeared from nowhere and I didn't want the viewer to be confused. 
The result was that the shot appeared to be an accidental error because Alice's head was missing, this was not the case because the shot was filmed like that deliberately, however, the shot looked really unprofessional so I decided that I would make a change to it so that Alice's missing head was not an issue.

Here is an example image from the scene in question, you can clearly see the issue with Alice's head not being in the shot.

One of the solutions I thought about was to ditch the shot completely. This shot however was vital because it showed the transition between Alice's Location at the front of the scene going into the scene. If I had of left it out it would have confused the viewer as it would have made Alice seem to have appeared from nowhere so this was not an option.
I thought about increasing the size of the scene so that only part of Alice was visible. As the original images for the animation had been downsized appropriately for the animation. I had access to larger images. At first I tried to make a new avi with the images from that scene in the program Monkey jam but at a larger scale so that if I was to increase the size of the clip in the video editing software it would not look pixelated but i found the size of the files where so large that they caused Monkey jam to crash or not build the avi correctly. As an alternative I used the video editing software adobe premier pro to increase the size of the existing video and move it around so that only Alice's feet where in view. This did not look perfect and considerably reduced the quality of the clip, but it looked better than before and more importantly it didn't look like a mistake.
I was not satisfied with the quality of this part of thew animation I think it looked terrible But I had to base this decision on what the animation would look like as a whole and not just on the one scene.
I felt that the animation in its entirety looked better after I had made this alteration than it did when the shot looked dodgy.

Here is an example of the rectified scene. As you can clearly see the quality of the shot has been reduced.

Alice's face job.

After I got marker pen on the face of alice i tried to wash it off and THE WHOLE FACE

I had to make the face again, I knew that the face would never be the same and so i had to animate from scratch. this meant wasting 2 whole scenes.

this is how alice looked before the face job

and after

I mixed some model magic with some liquid foundation and carefully blended it into to alices face i rubbed some colour from a pink felt tip pen into the model magic and blended it into the cheeks and aice looked better for it and looked less doll like.

outakes and deleted scenes.

Just some funny dodgy shots that occured along the way. Ive included them so I can explain why I did not include them.

Alice falls over

This occured when the armature started to weaken, at this point several scenes had been animated before the change in her face which involved alot of moving, meaning the armature had already weakened considerably. It was really hard for her to stand up after this,which is why she kept falling over. The armature had to be bent back to straighten it, weakening it even more.
I had to film this entire scene again, from scratch.

Caterpillar looses hand

I didnt even realise that this had occured until I was half way through filming this scene, you can see the pipe cleaner, Im glad I noticed.

Alice stops for a bite

I think the positioning of alices head was the issue here, luckily This scene was removed due to alices face getting wrecked and havig to be rebuilt, The funny thing is had I included this scene, with this frame it may have altered the story considerably, considering all of the weird stuff she saw after this shot ( smoking caterpillar that talks) This may not have been approprate for the younger side of the target audience. It may have been unappropriate.

Alices dodgy make up

This was the reason I changed the head, I nicked the cheek with my nail, got red felt tip on her face and she had something black underneath her eye. I washed it off ( or tried to) and made it worse.

experimenting with material for the characters

In my last animation i found that using clay for the models made it so that they melted and came apart.
As you can see in the picture below the comparison on the clay from the beginning scen to the ones that were filmed at the end. The clay looked ok at first in the picture on the left hand side then started to melt and look worse for wear.

This is one of the reasons I thought about using another material this time. I thought about using model magic but before i did so i decided to experiment with making characters with model magic So that I could find out if it was a more suitable material.

I experimented with making a head from model magic, I found that the model magic was harder to work with than clay as it stuck to itself more easily.

The benefits of it were that the material hardened after a while which prevente it from loosing shap like in the clay example from my last animation.
And I could also stick small detail to it without worrying about it falling off.

 I also experimented with painting the model magic as you can see in the above experiment. I found that the more time and care was taken the better it looked.

I decided to use model magic for my final model as I felt it was most appropriate material for adding the detail that i thought would visually appeal and communicate my intentions to my audience. I also knew that the target audience would appreciate seeing a model that didnt fall to bits and look unprofessional.

a good caterpillar finally

I finally decided on a different approach to making mr caterpillar as my efforts kept going from bad to worse.
My wonderful son sold me some plastic balls for 10p each, which i cut the bottom off covered in model magic and strung together with a pipe cleaner so that each individual peice would move.

Here are some images as they will appear in the animation.
I think he looks good on camera tbh.

The caterpillar - A blast from the past

one of the reasons i found it hard to make this caterpillar was because there was a lack of information about making chharacters like this.
when i googled how to make stop motion caterpillars in the past all i got was my own previous attempts fom my blog.
I tried again just on the off chance and I found this.

It was a caterpillar puppet fom a 1949 stop motion animation of alice in wonderland.
but the first image that came up was my own concept...BINGO...that made me realise what i needed to do.

Here is an image of The puppet in the film along with alice, it was a mixture of stop motion animation and live action footage.
The way the caterpillar had been painted in several shades of the same colour for effect and the fact that he had no legs was really inspiring to me. and his shape was far more appropriate as it visually communicated the idea of a caterpillar.
This made me think, I need something round that can be covered in modelling material that is easy to work with and cut.

I was tidying my kids bedroom when a brilliant idea came into my head... plastic balls.similar to the ones you would find in a ball pit or pool.

I persuaded my son to let me have some of these balls.

I cut them i was patient, i used the modelling techniques and processes from my previous examples but most importantly i learned from my mistakes.

here he is in all his glory

You can see how I was indpired by the professional stop motion puppet and how i used similar techniques in his creation. This really helped me to make him better.
And I was happy with how he looked.

and how he compares to my original intentions?

he is fat/round
has a long shape
human like features
correct expression
suitable for audience

the most important thing is that he communicates visually that he is in fact a caterpillar, not a brick, frog or cot toy.
He is appropriate for my animation and the needs of my audience.

Caterpillar - The good the bad and the ugly

oh mr caterpillar why do you hate me so...

I came up with a few new sketches, so i could make a model that was round,
i decided to keep the head as that was the only part that wasnt crap.

i made two oval styrofoam balls and experimented with covereing them with different materials so i could anylis them in terms of visual language and appropriteness.

I covered him with the usual model magic.

visual language and appropriatness

this new design i had developed communicated the idea visually of a fat frog. and was no more appropriate than th egreen brick from previos experiments.
i ony wish that i hadnt painted all the detail on him it took several hours.

i decided to experiment with another method, using materail.

visual communication and appropriatness

this example did communicate roundness, but it also comunicated visually that it was a babys cot toy. i really didnt think THAT would be appreciated by my target audience. not appropriate, wont be using.

what to do? i need to sit and think about the caterpillar and relook at the concept to do what i originally wanted.

I hate you mr caterpillar

this model was beginning to coause me some real grief. I decided i would make him rounder in the quickest possible way so that i could crack on with my animation.

luckily alice and the caterpillar where only togther in a few scenes so i was able to animate the scenes with alice in the day, whilst at night I worked on the caterpillar.

i came up with a quick solution to my problem and decided to recarve the part of the body that was squared, these are the steps that i took to do this.

I used a craft knife to cut the caterpillars skin off, it was weid because the model magic on the inside was perfectly preserved and hadnt hardened

I removed the styrofoam body so that I could recarve it to make it more round.

i laid his skin out flat so that it would loose its square shape, this way i could remould it around the new caterpillars body.

I removed the cloth tape which was absolute murder to do, then I recarved his body to make it rounder with a craft knife.

after I had done I wrapped the "skin" around the recarved body and filled it in with model magic.
I then repainted it, and readded the detail and hair (just the same as I did in the previous experiments)

and here he is

I wouldnt want to put him in any place other than the bin.
so thats where he went, I would absolutley have to make a new model, or FAIL.
And i wasnt planning on doing that any time soon.

correct visual language?

I felt that all of the reserach i had done to aid in the creation of my models and scene had paid off. but on reflection i wasnt sure caterpillar design communicates the idea of a caterpillar as I intended and if he was appropriate for my animation.

I decided to put all of my characters together in the scene along with the other props and characters to see if i had created the visual language that I had intended.

under the correct lighting I felt that the scene and characters went together really well, I thought the colors looked good together,and the visual language i had thought about in my research and development AND THE IDEAS THAT I WANTED TO COMMUNICATE in relation to the brief. I felt that alice met the preconception of her character from the book and the scene looked as lewis carol would have imagined it.

however (and theres always a however with me I didnt feel that the caterpillars shape did him any justice I felt he looked a little square, he needed to be altered, or made again entirely, if not i felt i would not solve the problems that i wrote for myself in my brief.

caterpiller part 3 the head

as mentioned in a previous post i looked at how to make the eyes like a professional model maker.

I took the eyes out before painting the head so they wouldnt get covered in green paint

after painting the head i put the eyes back in.

i then added spikes and detail to his head

I had finished the caterpillar

I felt that most of my intentions had been met but not all,

looking back at the original mind map i had made based on what i felt he needed to look like i made a list of what had been covered with this model.

colour green
human like features
correct expression

not covered

so i decided to put him in the scene along with the rest of my props etc.. to see how he looked before i changed him in any way.

i'm running out of time... it may come to it that i have to use him.

making the caterpillar part 2

caterpillar body covered in cloth tape

rolling pin make model magic smooth

feet covered in model maic over plasticine to make them firm

put thin layer of plasticine on bottom half of model so he wouldnt tip over

until entirely covered

when i looked at 3d sculpture of caterpillar models to help with the design.

i found an example that i found particularly inspiring that had small bristles pushed into it to make hair,

it also had a nice colour to it and had segments which went along with my original intentions.

i experimented with this idea.

I used platic bristles from an old sweeping brush.

this is what it looked like from behind

i covered the feet in plastic before i painted the bottom half of the model so i wouldnt get any paint on the feet.

i painted the model, but i didnt think that the paint looked great on its own so i applied a texturee to it using a brush i placed loads of dark green dots over the light green, making the appearence loads better.

i used the same painting techniques for the caterpillars body.(top half)

i stuck the spikes on this model in the same way that i did for the other part of the caterpillar.