• Charlotte Grant

Updatesss

Hey all, It's been a rather long time since I updated you all, but I thought I'd just post some of the work I've done since January :)

As mentioned in my last blog post, I've been working on a production and research bible for an animated film in the style of Edward Gorey.

This project, ‘Pick and Mix’ revolved around us picking 4 cards at random out of a hat. One of these cards would act as the art style, one as the genre, one as the main character and one as the location. The cards that I received were: Edward Gorey for the art Style, Opera House for the location, ‘A doctor’ for the main character and Family Feature film as the Genre.

The first thing I began researching for this project was the subject of Genre. The card I picked for my film was ‘Family Feature’ and therefore I had to know what family feature films entailed before I began writing a synopsis or started thinking of story ideas for this project. ‘Family Feature’ as a genre is very broad topic. It can range from live action films such as Mrs Doubtfire, to animated films such as Bambi. The only real rules defining a family feature film is that it has to be a feature film and can be enjoyed by both adults and children alike. The majority of these films are between U and PG in rating, with a very rare few crossing into the 12 rating category. Some very popular examples of ‘Family Feature films’ are, the Harry Potter series, Dr Doolittle, The Lord of the Rings series, along with the majority of Dreamworks, Disney and Pixar’s feature films.

Considering that family feature films appear to be pretty broad in themes and plots, the only restriction I gave myself when coming up with a story, was “is it kid friendly?”. Meaning my film should be free of explicit themes and language, but enjoyable to both adults and children.

My next step was coming up with a compelling story, this was something that was incredibly tough for me, I re-worked it several times. Going from a toy-story esque film, involving a shelf of souvenirs in a doctors room coming to life, to coming up with a much more dramatic plot, involving mental health issues. In the end, I chose to go with the plot involving mental health issues, as it’s something that has been a pressing issue in my life lately, regarding people I care about, so I felt much more compelled towards that subject matter.

I have always really liked films that involve fighting against an evil source with hand on hand combat, similar to how it is done in many video games. Wreck it Ralph is a recent family feature film and the majority of animated feature films I looked at, had fight scenes in them somewhere. I used this to give me some perspective on how scary I could make the film, without pushing it out of the ‘family feature film’ category by making it unsuitable for kids. Brave was one of the films I looked at quite extensively, along with Rise of the Guardians, two recent Family feature films with quite dark themes behind them and some impressive combat scenes. These were the two films I used to gauge how far I could go with my film, This project, ‘Pick and Mix’ revolved around us picking 4 cards at random out of a hat. One of these cards would act as the art style, one as the genre, one as the main character and one as the location. The cards that I received were: Edward Gorey for the art Style, Opera House for the location, ‘A doctor’ for the main character and Family Feature film as the Genre. This research bible will serve as a storage place for my thoughts, concepts and any research done for this project and should prove very helpful when deciding on particular assets for this film and keeping inspirations in one place.

The first thing I began researching for this project was the subject of Genre. The card I picked for my film was ‘Family Feature’ and therefore I had to know what family feature films entailed before I began writing a synopsis or started thinking of story ideas for this project. ‘Family Feature’ as a genre is very broad topic. It can range from live action films such as Mrs Doubtfire, to animated films such as Bambi. The only real rules defining a family feature film is that it has to be a feature film and can be enjoyed by both adults and children alike. The majority of these films are between U and PG in rating, with a very rare few crossing into the 12 rating category. Some very popular examples of ‘Family Feature films’ are, the Harry Potter series, Dr Doolittle, The Lord of the Rings series, along with the majority of Dreamworks, Disney and Pixar’s feature films.

Considering that family feature films appear to be pretty broad in themes and plots, the only restriction I gave myself when coming up with a story, was “is it kid friendly?”. Meaning my film should be free of explicit themes and language, but enjoyable to both adults and children.

My next step was coming up with a compelling story, this was something that was incredibly tough for me, I re-worked it several times. Going from a toy-story esque film, involving a shelf of souvenirs in a doctors room coming to life, to coming up with a much more dramatic plot, involving mental health issues. In the end, I chose to go with the plot involving mental health issues, as it’s something that has been a pressing issue in my life lately, regarding people I care about, so I felt much more compelled towards that subject matter.

I have always really liked films that involve fighting against an evil source with hand on hand combat, similar to how it is done in many video games. Wreck it Ralph is a recent family feature film and the majority of animated feature films I looked at, had fight scenes in them somewhere. I used this to give me some perspective on how scary I could make the film, without pushing it out of the ‘family feature film’ category by making it unsuitable for kids. Brave was one of the films I looked at quite extensively, along with Rise of the Guardians, two recent Family feature films with quite dark themes behind them and some impressive combat scenes. These were the two films I used to gauge how far I could go with my film, they also gave me some tips to other aspects and themes commonly prevalent in family feature films.

I also looked at other family feature films that star a doctor as the main character, Dr Doolittle was one of these, a film with lots of comedic and light hearted aspects along with him trying to save the lives of his patients, bringing more serious undertones.

My final story idea revolves around a performance psychiatrist by the name of Dr Mathews. He is well known in the performance industry for having questionable techniques but amazing results and success when helping his patients. Most establishments will not hire him unless the matter is vital, because he is viewed as controversial by the performance industry.

Eugine, a new opera singer, who is set to open Canada’s newest opera house, in front of royalty in a week, has broken down during one of his rehearsals with an anxiety attack. Dr Mathews is called in to help him combat his ‘monsters’ by using a machine to transport himself artificially into the mind of Eugine, where he can fight them sword and shield. Dr Mathews is in for a surprise though, as Eugine has more monsters than he has ever seen before and he can’t combat them without Eugines co-operation. Eugine is very stuck up and self righteous, someone that can not be easily budged. The film follows serious undertones, whilst being somewhat light hearted when involving the interaction between Eugine and Dr Mathews, an interaction I think can be made quite comedic.

I looked at the ‘style’ aspect and began by borrowing a book on my artist, titled “The world of Edward Gorey”. I then created a mood board of his work for reference. The first thing I noticed when researching his work was the simplistic nature of the characters and setups. Edward Goreys art is very stylised and recognisable, particularly as far as technique goes, using cross hatching and line work, however, if you look at his characters and settings across all of his work, it is all very two dimensional. Edward Gorey’s style was something I really liked and something I think could work well. I also looked at some of his more simple, coloured work to see how I could possibly incorporate his style into animation, without the character clashing with the backgrounds.

The first hurdle I faced, in regards to style, was that Edward Goreys character art lacks any kind of emotion to it. Characters all seem to have the same expression, regardless of situation, this being one of the things he was praised for, that any situation can go, with his art and it’ll just seem natural. From an animation standpoint however, this is one of the difficult things, especially with Monsters Within being such an emotionally charged film, dealing with fears and anxiety and phobias. I wanted to keep to Edward Goreys style as much as possible, but also be able to portray character emotion the way that was necessary for my storyline and also would keep the film fresh and interesting. This inspired me to begin trying to work in his style, sketching out what I thought some of the characters would look like in his style and then tweaking them a little bit, to portray more emotions.

The biggest thing I noticed about Goreys style, limitation wise, was that his characters features were very small, this probably being a contributing factor to the emotionless feel to his work.

When taking Edward Goreys style to animation, I decided it would be best to use his crosshatching style on either the backgrounds or the characters, but not both, as I felt it would be very distracting and difficult to understand what was going on. I played with two ideas to solve this. The first idea being, to have the backgrounds digitally painted in colour and then Edward Gorey style black and white cross hatched characters over the top. My second idea being to have a cross hatched, Edward Gorey style black and white background, with simplistic outlined Edward Gorey characters, in flat colour over the top.

In the end, I chose to go with the later idea, using a simplistic water colour style that Gorey has used in several of his pieces. I used Paint Tool SAI or all of the artwork, as the program was perfect for getting a nice, clean, pen-like line work for the background. Something I struggled with in Photoshop, Flash and other programs I tried. I made mood boards of some of the locations and mimicked them in Edward Goreys style, and also broke through from the style a little bit, sketching some dramatic digitally painted pieces of concept art, to get me started and really get a feel of the movie I wanted to create. I went through several iterations of character designs, from the original, toys coming to life idea, to a loose Edward Gorey style and then finally onto the accurate Edward Gorey style seen in the final product. I originally created the animatic in a loose Edward Gorey style, with normal cinematography, using varied camera angles and shot types. However, after having a feedback session with my lecturers, decided to stick more closely to Edward Goreys style, reducing the amount of camera shots and making the existing ones very front on and flat, similar to Edward Goreys work.

We were required to animate a few seconds of animation to ‘prove’ that animation could work in this style. I originally planned to do a cut-out animation of Eugine collapsing, but after a little more thought, I decided I’d quite like to animate it frame by frame. This decision was mostly based off the fact that I found Edward Goreys style limiting enough, emotion wise and I felt that animating in cut-out would make this and even bigger issue. It would also require me to learn Celaction in just a couple of weeks and I thought it would be beneficial to my work to stick with something I was confident with, instead of rushing to learn new software in just a couple of weeks.

I decided I wanted to animate the monsters, for my short snippet as I thought it would be fun to figure out how these creatures would move. I also needed to keep my work in the Edward Gorey, watercolour and cross hatching style. The program flash is a pretty limiting one, when it comes to colouring techniques, but I felt the timeline was absolutely necessary for me to get the movement of these creatures correct. I decided to work across several programs when animating, and really liked the idea of working with the flicker produced with cross hatching and watercolour in a frame by frame style animation (Similar to how The Snowman looks, produced with coloured pencil).

I ended up having a pipeline for creating a frame, I’d sketch it out in flash and use the timeline to ensure the movement was how I wanted it, I’d then export it as an AVI file and import it frame by frame in Photoshop, which I’d save as individual layers. I’d then save it as a .PSD and import it into Paint tool Sai, where I changed the opacity, drew other the top in smooth lines, added cross hatching and coloured in the watercolour style. This would then be saved as a .PNG and brought into editing software, where I chose the time it was to be displayed and pieced all my animation together.

I am very pleased with the final outcome of the animation, but I’m not sure how viable it’d be in a commercial space. The flicker works the way I intended it to and I think the animation works well for a dream-like sequence, especially with the watercolour and cross hatching making it look quite eerie. However, when considering export times and switching between programs, it was taking me upwards of an hour per frame and at 25 frames per second, I don’t think that would be so viable in a studio, unless a strict pipeline was adhered too.

Overall I really enjoyed this project! It pushed me out of my comfort zone a lot, when designing characters and working to someone elses style, something I feel was a good thing overall. I’m very happy with the final animation, however, for the amount of time it took to animate such a small shot, I think finding a better technique to animate in, would be best for time management and efficiency. If I was to do it again, I think I’d probably look for a compromise between Goreys style and simplicity for animation, hopefully by doing this it would allow me to animate more efficiently, whilst still keeping a relatively high standard of work.

I think this project has taught me a lot, in regards to character design and wat it means to work in another person’s style. I enjoyed thinking up stories for the project, ad a lot of fun sound editing for the animatic and really enjoyed seeing the Monster coming to life, after spending so long staring at each frame.

I think Edward Goreys style could be used for animation, but as much as I like it, I think it is a little too complex for your average feature film. The style would fit in quite well at art shows or film festivals however and may have some success in advertising.

Below is my final research bible, compiling my inspirations for the project

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0BwCeP4T97JdFNldqaUFIdS1SUE0

and then my final production bible, detailing the film/character designs ect is below :D

https://docs.google.com/file/d/0BwCeP4T97JdFeGJfSHlET2NEM1E/edit

Here's the animatic for one of the scenes

and here is a short animation, experimenting with the style :3

I'll blog again soon, to talk about my new projects :D I've got a couple of game projects along with a few other things that I'm working with ^^

Until next time ~Char out