Jan 14, 2012

Trying to make a Short Animation Film: Part V

A few of the old sketches I had made for the film, mostly character sketches.

Trying to make a Short Animation Film: Part IV

A blast from the past.
Today I wondered to myself what I really have been doing for the past so many months that I have been working on my film, and what I have to show for it.
On the surface, I don't have much, because most of it was writing down story ideas which would evolve and morph through many many pages. But I had done a simple character design for my protagonist, who is supposed to be..well.. sorta like me!
Its not supposed to be very true-to-life, as in copying myself, but I definitely wanted to have the hint there somewhere.

The problem with drawing for me, is the conditioning that I have in my head, that I am very much aware of, but am unable to break from, ie: to draw realistically.
Drawing people, places, sketches, pencils, anything, I always tend to get lost into the details of rendering them realistically rather then capturing the pose, or gesture, or the essence of the drawing, which certainly was never what detail was on the back of the notebook on her lap or any other such random thing.
I would like to put the blame squarely on my past education at JJ where I had taken Illustration as my elective, and was often critiqued because my figures were never that powerful, realistic, muscle-detailed etc.
Yes, I completely understand the necessity for the study of anatomy, but that never meant we had to draw each and every figure as if it were a spread form said anatomy book!
But the blame rests upon me mostly. On my lack of effort. If only I put more effort into loosening up my hand with more sketching, more practice, till I found the 'style', or 'my groove', till I found what was right for me.
I have noticed, that the times when I have been life sketching constantly, either in morning sketching sessions or in general, my hand is obviously more free and spontaneous while drawing. Well, Duh! that's what they all say, draw, draw, draw! And so it comes back to bite me in the butt, my own mistakes.

So, these initial character designs had nothing in them. Yes, I did have a drawing which looked like a girl, but she seemed so.. generic. Like anyone could have drawn them. I couldn't find a trace of ME in  them, or even anything beyond the flat surface. Looking at the character, I only felt depressed that I would have to sit and animate this thing in the future, there was no excitement, no eagerness. That's when I realized, if I don't feel like animating her even before I start, what would happen when I did start?
Well, I did try a few short line tests, and each time got more disgusted. I couldn't even seem to draw the character, however flawed she was, consistently for even a 2-second shot!

This dissatisfaction, coupled with me being not-so-pleased with my story itself, trying to make it funny, trying to make it dramatic, trying to make it perfect, led me to a period of almost a month where I, essentially, did nothing.
All I could think of was that I hated my story, hated my drawings, pretty much didn't do much but wallow in self pity. Meanwhile other projects and events I was involved with demanded more of my time, which I was only to happy to give, and my film suffered neglect day after day.

But I'm glad that things are looking up, and I have finally got my rear end in gear, and have started working once again.
I wish I hadn't slacked off then, because it only made my film suffer, but its a lesson learnt.(That I need more determination and and will power to sit and work!)

Trying to make a Short Animation Film: Part III

What I wanted to write about was this simple piece of advice I came across which suddenly seemed to free me, in terms of the nitty-gritties of making my film.


I quote from the blog I read it:
""Simplify" is always good advice, and it applies to everything. Simplify your film as much as you can, without making it bland and uninteresting, so that you can spend your time working on the parts that are important. "

Click to read the full article on Temple of the Seven Golden Camels.

It was as if I was liberated all of a sudden, and things began to fall in place in my head.

I was worrying about my need to finish my film on schedule and the restrictions my current amount of animation ability. I wasn't sure if my own doubts have had any effect on my character designs, or story length etc.

In fact the primary reason  I had decided to try a minimalist approach for the backgrounds was that I was afraid of the time that might be wasted, not wasted but mis-spent, upon making detailed, extensive backgrounds, which might be better put to use on animation, or improving my animation.
I then, of course, justified this decision with the statement that my film was character-centric!

But reading this post made me realize, that the end ideal is not to have a perfect film, or amazing animation, or beautiful backgrounds/artwork. The point of making a film (or any artwork for that matter) is WHAT I want to convey with that piece of art.
And in the end, what I want my audience to walk away with is the Story. It doesn't matter how I tell it, but the fact that I manage to tell it at all.
So if that means I make minimal backgrounds, or simpler characters, or any other decision, if it works for the betterment of the story, then I should go with it.

Jan 13, 2012

Trying to make a Short Animation Film: Part II

What comes after story?

Well, technically my story is this constantly evolving, morphing monster right now. And nothing happens exactly one after the other like walking down stairs, but rather each step overlaps and affects whatever is right behind or ahead of it.

I have been simultaneously trying to do 3-4 things at the same time. Which may account for some of the confusion one might experience by the end of this post.

Maybe it the wrong way of doing things, and there might be a better way. But right now for me, this is what is helping me move ahead with work atleast in minute degrees.

I am working on my story, storyboard, character design, figuring out the style and treatment of the backgrounds as well as working on my editing, staging, composition and layout skills.

Each pass of storyboard, and feedback received on it is helping me strengthen the actual story. Also principles of composition, layout and staging have to be incorporated in the storyboard as well.
I am also trying to decide how to treat my backgrounds, as I know that if i have detailed backgrounds with a lot of rendering, it will be a whole lot more work, and backgrounds are not my greatest strength. Also, my story is completely character driven, and keeping in mind time constraints, I am considering going with a minimalist approach. So from both viewpoints, artistic and realistic, it makes better sense to spend the time on making clear and simple backgrounds rather than spend more time to get super realistic rendered backgrounds which don't contribute to the story.

So now I'm exploring different styles and treatment for the same.
Artist like Quentin Blake and Ronald Searle come to mind, as well as the animations of UPA, which had such simple and beautiful backgrounds which was perfect for their shorts.

Some of what I've been reading/watching:
The 5 C's of Cinematography
The Art of Layout and Storyboarding
Disney's Illusion of Life
Shorts from UPA (watch on youtube)
Thomas Ott's Panopticum (graphic narrative)
Manta Ray's Hush (graphic narrative)

Also, I'm trying to learn about colour in compostion.
Man there are just too many things to figure out! :O

Trying to make a Short Animation Film: Part I

The time has come.
After a year (almost- give or take a few months) of thinking, re-thinking, and waaayy more re-re-thinking.. I have finally come to the point where I am going to take the call to freeze the story for my diploma film.

Short history here- At NID, we come here for a 2 and half yr course, where 2 years are spent on the learning part, and the half (plus another half) are spent on an individual project where we actually apply everything that we learnt in the past two years. In my case, making a short animation film. So.. I'm on my on the last leg of my time here, and I have less than 6 months left to finish said project.

So, back to the topic.
I've decided to make the conscious effort to document (atleast from now on) all that I am doing, reading, writing, thinking and getting feedback on.
Why? Because, technically I have been working on the story of my diploma film for almost 7 months now, and there isn't an iota of actual moving animation to be seen! and if anyone were to ask me what I have been doing for these months, I have tons of writings and drawings, but explaining them seems just so difficult. And, I do know, that I have to finish my project with a complete documentation report of how I went about making it, justify my time take, the resources spent, the choice of story..everything! So.. to make things easier for me, my blog is about to become my journal. 

Where have I reached till now?
I have a story (almost!)

So I've been reading a LOT! blogs, books, library, notes from other students and classes...
And I realized, the biggest challenge for me, personally, in making this film, is making choices.

Just a few months ago, I worked on a project where I assisted in inking for a short animation film.
There I realized that if I sat diligently, from 10 to 6, a LOT could be done! I mean, we did finish a 7 minute long film in 3 months! Granted, the pre-production was completed before, and the animators working on the film were much senior to me with years of experience, but the actual animation was accomplished within this short span of time! It was a revelation for me! 
Immediately after this project I was to get back to working on my own film once again, and I made thousands of resolutions to work everyday, make a fixed timetable, and actually follow it etc etc,
and well, its almost 2 months now and I have zilch again. And that is when I finally learnt something about myself.

I could work non-stop when there was someone above me to make decisions or take a call on what worked or what didn't. Even though I did get a lot of freedom to try styles and so on, there was always the security in my mind that if I was wrong someone would call me on it.

Here, with my own project, everything is in my hands. Oh, it sounds wonderful, 'You can do whatever you want!' But then bang! comes the problem with that very freedom.. there are so many things I want to do, to try, some might not be appropriate or suited to my story, or those which I like but know I don't have the skills/equipment/talent/determination etc to do and so many other worries.
As it is, I have a tendency to overthink.. about everything! From what to wear to what to eat to myu choice of buying a tablet and so on.
And when something this big is involved, like an entire film, that will later reflect on months of work and has so much riding on it, its just.. so HUGE an endeavor, that it leaves me reeling everytime I think of it.

There are so many steps involved, thus, so many decisions.
Story, script, style, treatment, colour, tone, character design, storyboard, animatic, sound design, animation, style of animation, I could go on for ages!

But what did I learn so far?
That maybe storytelling was not my forte, after all I have taken months to just develop the story idea. But, its a learning process. It is, after all, my first individual animation film. 
And everything I read, I have to stop reading somewhere and start applying those to my work.
But it is still important to keep learning, and keep challenging myself. It is a fine line where I have to decide whether to stick with what I know, which I realize isn't much, or try something new, and broaden my horizons. But when that 'something new' is beyond my scope, or just impractical, I need to stop and decide, and impose some limits somewhere. After all I can't do everything I want to in just the first film.

And this is where I stop this extremely long post, saying that I am trying to learn as much as I can, all the basics, principles, rules... and apply them wherever I can, but in the end, have a complete film.
After all if I have things just in my head and nothing to show for it, what is the point?