Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Jingles for Pringles - Winner

The Jingles for Pringles competition has now finished and there is a winner. Nils' variation of Santa Claus is coming to town wowed the Judges with it's combination of video and animation. This one really stands out against the others which are of lesser quality. An interesting entry is "Pringle Baby" which appears to have been made using either Poser or possibly via a machinima technique.

Monday, December 17, 2007

An Animated Christmas Greeting

Paul Smith has produced an excellent little Christmas ECard. Those who have seen his "Love of the Game" film will recognise both the humour and the modelling style.


Sunday, December 16, 2007

Music Video Contest for DeltaEchoPapaZulu

Something I was sent on Myspace, sounds interesting:

DeltaEchoPapaZulu launches a Video Contest on the web for the realization of the video of “Pleasure Railways”, a song from the cd Download My Love.

The song, as explained by the author Alberto Fabris (DeltaEchoPapaZulu), refers to the Kraftwerk’s Transeurope Express putting a question mark and possibly disagrees to the original concept of the “Transeurope Express” being the most beautiful railways journey due to the unique landscapes of Siberia and the great analog technology of the trains. Infact “Pleasure Railways” argues that the most beautiful railways journey is the Japanese Sanyo-To-Kaido-To-Hoku Sjinkansen


Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Danish Underpant Thieves and the book that was so good I bought it twice.

On one of my work trips to Copenhagen my bag was stuck in the airport handling system and I arrived at the hotel with nothing. I duely payed for a new pair which cost a fortune from the hotel reception and some body spray from the local convenience store. So the next day I left my old pair of pants in the room and headed off to work in the new pair. When I arrived back to the hotel I found the room was open and my old pants were gone. Despite various protests I did not get any refunds and my pants never arrived. Things were made worse by the fact that my new pants accidentally ended up on the expenses bill to the client.

On a separate occasion I was reading "Digital Lighting and Rendering" a top book from Jeremy Birn which not surprisingly is about Digital Lighting, and Rendering. I left this in the hotel room as it's quite heavy and I already had a laptop to carry. When I returned that evening it was gone. The hotel made some enquiries but non of cleaning staff turned out to be part time computer animators. They promised to send me a new copy. On another visit a few weeks later, I quizzed about progress and they denied all knowledge. So I shelled out for a new copy and since then it's been know as the book that was so good I bought it twice.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Project Planning for Animation

"Why should an amateur animator be interested in project planning for their animation?"

In my case it's to solve the problem of working on the film very intermittently and forgetting what needs to be done and what is important. For a large project or a project with many people working on it, project planning can help communicate between the team members.
A good project plan links together the tasks that need to be completed, the resources (either computers, materials or people) and time. A plan can also be used to communicate to non animators such as project sponsors if you are lucky enough to have some. A plan can help provide an estimate for your budget or highlight problem areas in your project.

There are different techniques for project planning, I'm going to describe just one which is task based planning as I feel that is more suited to smaller projects with one or a few resources.

The first and minimum requirement for a plan is just a list of tasks to be done.

A simple example framework for these is outlined below for character based short story with two characters and three scenes.

  • Storyboarding
  • Script Development
  • Recording voices
  • Model Character 1
  • Model Character 2
  • Model Sets
  • Animate Scene 1
  • Animate Scene 2
  • Animate Scene 3
  • Sound Effects
  • Film/Video Editing
  • Production/release
In total these tasks define the scope of your project, if in the script development a new set or new character is needed then these should be added to the plan. The size of the tasks will depend on the timescales and complexity of your project. If for example you are on a 2 week schedule with 2 team members then large tasks such as in the example above would be relevant. If you are running with a large team over a longer period then each of these tasks can be broken down into smaller tasks, for example modelling character 1 could be split into modelling the armature/rigging and costume design. It is important that your tasks are clearly definable but it is not important to put that detail into the actual plan. It helps if each of the tasks of of a similar size/effort. This will make assigning dependencies easier and will avoid smaller tasks being overlooked.

Time Estimates and dependencies
A task list by itself can be very helpful for your project and will allow you to monitor progress and share tasks between the team. To turn you task list into a plan the time element is added.

There's two factors to the time element, the first is an estimate of how long a task will take and the second dependency information.

Estimating is notoriously difficult but that's not an excuse not to do it. As you complete more projects you will find that it becomes easier. One technique is to break your tasks down into subtasks to help you to estimate them but in your plan simply put the total for the subtasks.

The dependency information defines how the tasks related to each other. Most project planning tools show this as a link between the tasks. In our example above, the recording of the voice actors would not start before the completion of the script development. When you could to perform these tasks you may find that there's a little overlap, for example you may be perfecting one characters lines in parallel to recording another character. Trying to put these details into the plan is going to be problematic so my recommendation is to not bother for simple plans. If you have a large project then this kind of overlap may be an indication of the tasks not being sufficiently fine in detail. You might find that splitting the tasks into subtasks will resolve the problem.

You may find that the process of adding estimations and dependencies will add tasks into your plan, for example you may have forgotten about training requirements or you may need to split the animation of a scene into two tasks, for different shots. To use the Ratobat film as an example the Jump Shot required two steps. The first was recording, the second was the removal of the bridge, these were significant tasks in their own right and hence could be planned separately. The cleanup task is dependent on filming task but the two don't need to happen at the same time, hence we know we can split this into two tasks.

Ratobat on a bridge

For the Flea Film the production plan contains just the tasks and time and was produced using OpenOffice's Calc.


Resources are any materials, places, equipment or people associated with the project. For example you may only have one sound studio hence you can only record one voice at once or you may be the only person on the project and hence if you are designing characters you can't also be animating. However, coming from a engineering background I liked to refer to Fred Brooks' Mythical Man-Month book which makes the point that you can't just throw resources at a task and expect it to get completed more quickly. Fred's comments really apply to most projects and not just software so I recommend his book.

There are several reasons to add resources into a plan. The first is to find the areas in the plan where people or other resources are over booked. The plan can then be adjusted in an attempt to balance this. Some software can do this automatically and others will require you to manually make adjustments. The second reason is to help budget the project. For example you may need to pay for studio time or for CGI projects for rendering time and the plan should be able provide this information for you. You may also have need to book resources some weeks in advance so being able to get this information from the plan is vital.

Like anything you need to pick the right tool for the job. The right tool might be dependant on your computer, your budget and will definitely depend on the needs of you plan.

One of the things I find annoying is the assumption that if you need project planning software then you must be a big corporation and capable of paying lots for a fancy project planning tool. For example Microsoft Project costs £499 for the latest version which is well beyond my budget given that I'd only be using it for maybe 1 or 2 hours a month. There is a way out of this for students in that Microsoft have teamed up with Software 4 Students to provide Microsoft Office Professional.

However all is not lost, there's lots of Web based open source solutions for project planning, track one of these down on Google if you have an international collaborative project. There's also a few stand alone software options such as Open Project. However, I choose to forgo having gant charts and resource calculators and simply put my project details into a spreadsheet.
I'm not an expert on Apple software, so here's some comments from a user on Mac planning software.

Final thoughts
One important thing to remember about a project plan is that is should not be carved in stone at the beginning of the project. The plan can be based-lined, either by taking a copy of the plan and setting it read only or by using your software's baselining functionality. This allows you to then compare your current plan with the original. This can then be used to ensure the next plan you start is better. The plan can become a working document with new tasks being added and time estimates being more accurately reflected as the project goes on.
My other thought is that the project should run the plan rather than the other way around. Although this might sound counter intuitive you should think of the plan being there for the benefit of your project. A good project plan can help you provide budgets, with booking of resources and ensuring you don't end up trying to animate before your sets and models are ready.
Happy planning!

Monday, December 10, 2007

New Releases

Blade Runner: The Final Cut

There's a new version of Blade Runner available on DVD


Shaun the Sheep

Shaun has released a new single: http://www.shaunthesheep.com/single

Thursday, December 06, 2007


"How would you animate acid?"

This was how I was greeted when I met some colleagues after work. My first thoughts were of a green bubbling liquid in a glass jar with smoke rolling off top. However there was further clarification of "like in the 60s"

"Psychedelia" was my instant response and a chap from across the table followed quickly with a mention of the Beatles Yellow Submarine. After jokily suggesting that watching this from the third person would be a little boring, we discussed swirling colours and Alice in Wonderland before moving onto other topics such as why it was taking so long to get a beer and time travel.

One the way home I got thinking about animation of drug deduced psychedelia and thought of a curious but subdued character interacting with a blob like creature which I think I remember from the film Sphere and I also thought of surrealism /paranoia from the films eXistenZ and Videodrome both Directed by David Cronenberg. However I also remembered an excellent sequence from Disney's Dumbo, "Pink Elephants on Parade".

Pink Elephants on Parade

Friday, November 30, 2007

Music for Flea Circus

Whilst searching for fleas and circuses, I came across a synopsis for a schools musical called Circus Mystique. The website had some samples of the music which I listened to and liked the style of. So I wrote to them with some thoughts about how the flea film could use music.

The composer of Circus Mystique, Daniel Laubacher has agreed to look into some music for the flea circus film. He is enthusiastic about the challenge and is happy to work on the project.
Daniel Laubacher
Given that Daniel is Swiss, that makes the Flea Circus even more of an international collaboration, adding to the existing Scottish, French, Laotian and English voice actors and CGI modeller from Singapore and the US along with myself from the UK. This project is really demonstrating how the internet can be used for connecting people together from all walks of life.

Perhaps it's time to look into "Designing Sound for Animation" and see how we can best make use of sound to build the suspense and excitement of the different acts.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Animate! at Whitechapel

The Whitechapel Art Gallery is screening the films of Jean-Gabriel Périot and 6 new films from Animate!, this year's Animate! artists are Andy Martin, David Alexander Anderson, Let Me Feel Your Finger First, Mark Simon Hewis, Semiconductor and Thomson & Craighead.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Film Festivals

Later this week is the Encounters Short Film Festival in Bristol. The Festival, is now in its 13th edition and takes place from 21-25 November. There will be screenings, interviews, panel sessions, master classes, a film school and on Thursday 22nd, an Animation Symposium.
The Encounters Short Film Festival is launching a dedicated channel on Babelgum. From November 21st internet viewers will be able to watch material uploaded from the Encounters Film Festival for free, by downloading the Babelgum viewer.

Babelgum is also hosting it's own online film festival with Spike Lee named honorary Judge of Jury. Beginning 15 February 2008, submitted films will be showcased on the Babelgum Online Film Festival Channel, where the public will be able to rate each film. A prize of €20,000 will be awarded to winners in each of the six categories: The Babelgum Looking for Genius Award, The Babelgum Short Film Award, The Babelgum Documentary Award, The Babelgum Animation Award, The Babelgum Social/Environment Award and The Babelgum Spot/Advertising Award.

Babelgum is a free on-demand TV over the Internet that lets you watch whatever you want, whenever you want as often as you want. Content is uploaded by professional film makers.


Swansea Animation days is also soon, this International Animation, Games and SFX Conference runs from Monday 26th till Friday 30th November. "SAND includes conference sessions on games, procedural animation, films, post production techniques, TV commercials, motion capture, also with animation screenings from around the world, professional sector workshops and business seminar". Guest speakers include Apurva Shah, Effects Supervisor from Pixar Animation Studios and Shelley Page, Head of International Outreach from DreamWorks Animation. Workshops will be held on the topics of Acting For Animators,
Scriptwriting, Charac'ature Animation , Character Development and Claymation.

Along side the conference will be an exhibition at Taliesin Arts Centre, Swansea.


Friday, November 16, 2007

Barton Hill Animation Festival call for work

The Barton Hill Animation Festival is now in it's third year. It consists of animation workshops and a cinema showing both amateur and professional films.

Following a successful event for 2007 the festival is now looking for submissions for the 3rd Barton Hill Animation Festival in Bristol on Sunday 16th March 2008.

If you would like to submit a short animation, please send them as either AVI or MOV files on DVD. Please send your animations to:

Sarah Winch
Community at Heart
Wellspring Healthy Living Centre
Beam Street
Barton Hill
Bristol BS5 9QY

Unfortunately they are unable to return any of the work received unless specifically requested.

Deadline for submissions: 31st January 2008

For more details about Commiunity at Heart visit http://www.ndcbristol.co.uk/

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Once upon a paperbag

As part of the Brighton Digital Festival, the animation event organisers Paperbag have organised "a night of the best animated shorts around, interspersed with live local musical talent".

18 Nov 2007, 19:30
Manchester Street
United Kingdom

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


I've managed to see Pixar /Disney's latest film, Ratatouille and I must tell you it is excellent. It's not just me that thinks that, the film has already been shorted listed as one of 12 animated films for this years Academy awards for animation. Because of the quality of the film I've decided to include a more in depth blog article than usual. There are a few spoilers in here so if you've not yet seen the film (or DVD) then look away now.

The rats are the key characters in the film with brothers Remy and Emile providing the setup for the story at the beginning of the film and soon the screen is full of scurrying rats. Unfortunately for Pixar, Eadweard Mybridge did not include rats in his Animals in Motion so the animators such as Mark Walsh had to record their own clips of rats eating, sniffing, climbing and crawling. Under Brad Bird's guidance they have skillfully blended these 'rat-isms,' with more human characteristics required for the character scenes. As well as great movement these rats have a fantastic appearance, Pixar have demonstrated that hair and fur are no longer a limitation for computer animation. When water is added into the mix it should have been impossible but the animators and shading experts have also perfected the "drowned rat" look.

One of the major concern of a film about rats in the kitchen must be the hygiene issue. Remy explains this to his brother who is confused why any rat would want to walk on just two legs. When the family of rats help out with the cooking there is a very humorous scene where they are all washed in the dishwasher.

For more details about the design challenges of rats see the cinematical visit to pixar.

The other characters are also fleshed out in detail in terms of their positions in the kitchen and backgrounds. My particular favourites are the critic played by Peter O Toole and the mad head chef Skinner who reminded me of Inspector Drefus from the Pink Pather films. The bulbous waiter also reminded me of the Monty Python, Mr Creosote character.

One of the stars of the film is the food and Pixar have ensured that it's treated with as much skill as the characters. The sheer variety and details of the food is incredible. The food is chopped, prepared, cooked and tasted by the chefs and rats and the kitchen and store rooms are full of it.

The film has some excellent cinematography so it was not surprising to learn that the director of photography and lighting Sharon Calahan and production designer Harley Jessup has spent lots of time researching Paris and films such as Amelie, Bon Voyage and An American in Paris

One clever technique which is close to my heart is the use of a shallow depth of field. This is used when in dark world of the rats and contrasted with the sharp focus of the world of the humans and outside scenes around Paris.

Games, Merchandising and DVD Releases

When I saw the sequence in the sewer when Remy's boat goes over the rapids I had two imediate thoughts. The first was that it reminded me of the Dragon's Lair game from the 1980s and the second is that was definately going to be in the game version. There are in fact a range of games associated with this film including ones specially designed for the Nintendo DS.

Mattel who did the toys for films such as Cars are also making Ratatouille games such as a mouse trap variation and a selection of plushies and figurines.


Even before I saw this film, the DVD versions were being released in the USA and Australia. Unfortunately there is no sign of a UK DVD arriving in time for Christmas.

My showing of Ratatouille came with a short "B-movie" - Lifted. This space film looks a young alien and the problems of abducting a sleeping farmer from his house. The team have also produced a short about Rats, "Your Friend the Rat" a 2D educational piece covering everything you want to know about rats. "Your Friend the Rat" also includes sections in Stop Motion and Chalk animation based on production sketches.

Script and trailers

The film starts by a little old ladies house with the family of rats scavenging for food. Remy is experimenting with blending foods and his brother Emile eats that and anything else he can get his paws on. Following a fight at the house the rats escape by river. Their preprepared collection of vessels reminded me of Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. In the confusion Remy is separated from the family and navigates through the sewers and passages with the ghost of his favourite chef Auguste Gusteau to guide him. He finds himself in Paris at Gusteau's old restaurant. Here, he fixes a soup messed up by Linguini who is working as a cleaner in the kitchen. Gusteau acts as a mentor and conscious to Remy. Linguini is made an apprentice chef and remote controlled by Remy, he cooks up some excellent food, much to the anger of head chef Skinner. Their partnership causes the restaurant to flourish and comes under the attentions of a famous critic. The story weaves in love, betrayal, conflicts between family and career and corruption between the chefs and rats and climaxes in a crazy conclusion which has to be seen to be believed.

Trailers for the film can be seen on the Pixar site or the Apple site. http://www.pixar.com/theater/trailers/rat/index.html
http://www.apple.com/trailers/disney/ratatouille/ http://upcomingpixar.blogspot.com/

Director: Brad Bird
Produced by Brad Lewis
Executive Producers: John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton
Associate Producer: Galyn Susman
Original Story: Jan Pinkava, Jim Capobianco, Brad Bird
Music: Michael Giacchino
Story Supervisor: Mark Andrews
Film Editor: Darren Holmes
Supervising Technical Director: Michael Fong
Production Designer: Harley Jessup
Supervising Animators: Dylan Brown, Mark Walsh
Director of Photography/Lighting: Sharon Calahan
Director of Photography/Camera: Robert Anderson
Character Design: Jason Deamer, Greg Dykstra, Carter Goodrich, Dan Lee
Character Supervisor: Brian Green
Sets Art Director: Robert Kondo
Sets Supervisor: David Eisenmann
Shading Art Director: Belinda Van Valkenburg
Shading Supervisor: Daniel McCoy
Global Technology Supervisor: William Reeves
Effects Supervisor: Apurva Shah
Simulation Supervisor: Christine Waggoner
Groom Supervisor: Sanjay Bakshi
Crowds Supervisor: Ziah Sarah Fogel
Production Manager: Nicole Paradis Grindle
Sound Designer: Randy Thom


Remy: Patton Oswalt
Linguini: Lou Romano
Colette: Janeane Garafalo
Skinner: Ian Holm
Emile: Peter Sohn
Django: Brian Dennehy
Auguste Gusteau: Brad Garrett
Antono Ego: Peter O'Toole

Git: Jake Steinfeld
French Waiter: Brad Bird
Horst: Will Arnett
Lalo & Francois: Julius Callahan
Larousse: James Remar
Mustafa: John Ratzenberger
Lawyer (Talon Labarthe): Teddy Newton
Pompidou & Health Inspector: Tony Fucile
Ambrister Minion: Brad Bird
Narrator: Laurent Spelvogel



Imagine Magazine speculates on how rats might be the next turtles.


Other Reviews

Dante Kleinberg's look at Plot, Character, Theme and Execution.
James R Hull ponders why the film seems too long and looks at Time lock and Option lock plots.

Final fact

The Secret of NIMH http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0084649/ was produced by ExDisney Don Bluth who also did the graphics for Dragon's lair.

Monday, November 12, 2007

New Creature Comforts

Aardman's latest creature comforts is made for Leonard Cheshire Disability charity. Leonard Cheshire provides services for disabled people and campaigns for their rights and have provided input for Aardman to create a range of new characters including Spud the Slug, Peg the Hedgehog and Flash the Sausage Dog. The characters explain some of the prejudices that are still common in the UK and are all voiced by real disabled people. The director Steve Harding-Hill described working with disabled people as being incredibly satisfying.

The Creature Discomforts characters appear in adverts that will be seen online, in magazines, at bus stops and on the Tube from this Thursday.

The aptly named "Creature Discomforts" series is previewed online and can be seen in full in the spring of 2008.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

dSCAPE/07 Animation Night

Brighton Digital Festival is having an animation night on Wednesday 14 November to showcase and discuss animation. The 4 hour session includes screenings and a panel discussion.

Wednesday 14 November 6.30 - 10.30pm at Salis Benny Theatre, Brighton

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

More depth of field

Thanks to a fellow blogger Darkmattr I've discovered a technique called SmallGantics.

The idea is that they take a photo of a real place and adjust the depth of field so that it looks like a model. You can see that the picture of Oxford above demostrates this effect very well.
Given the impressive results, I've decided to take a further look into simulating this effect in Carrara 6 so that the flea film has a distinctively different look between the closeups of the flea circus and the longer shots of the Ring Master or Professor.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

London Film Festival

The London Film Festival Started today and has a promising line up of animation including some distinctly grown up films such as "Persepolis" directed by Marjane Satrapi & Vincent Parronaud. Persepolis has been nominated for the Sutherland Trophy for the Most origional and imaginative first feature. Also showing is "Lucidi Folli" an erotic black and white animation which is Ursula Ferrara's debut film from 1986. I'm glad that the festival has chosen to recognise animation as something more than films for kids. Ursula's 1999 film "Five Rooms" is also showing.

Here's the details of all the animated films on during the festival:

Animated Shorts for Younger Audiences
Sat 27 Oct 16:00, NFT2

The Bee Movie (USA 2007)
A gala special screening.
Sun 28 Oct 15:30, Odeon West End 2

Five Rooms (Italy 1999) and We Want Roses Too (Italy-Switzerland 2007)
Fri 19 Oct 14:00, NFT3
Sat 20 Oct 15:45, NFT2

Lucidi Folli (Italy 1986)
Mon 22 Oct 18:30, Odeon West End 2
Tue 23 Oct 16:00, Odeon West End 1

Max & Co (Switzerland-Belgium-France-UK 2007)
Sat 20 Oct 14:00, NFT3

Persepolis (France 2007)
Mon 29 Oct 21:00, Odeon West End 1
Wed 31 Oct 15:00, Odeon West End 2

International Animation Panorama
Sat 20 Oct 13:45, NFT2
Mon 22 Oct 14:00, NFT3

The Thread of Life (Syria 2006)
Sat 20 Oct 19:30, BFI Southbank Studio
Mon 22 Oct 13:45, NFT2

Vexille (Japan 2007)
Sat 20 Oct 23:30, Odeon West End 1
Sun 21 Oct 16:15, ICA Cinema

Yobi, the Five-Tailed Fox
Sat 20 Oct 15:30, Odeon West End 1
Tue 23 Oct 12:00, NFT2

Anti-pesto van inspiration for sale

Nick Park from Aardman Animation is kindly donating his own van to the Wallace and Gromit's Children's Foundation. This is of course no ordinary van but the one that inspired the anti-pesto van from the film the Curse of the Wererabbit. The vehicle is an International Austin A35 van which was made in 1958. Please note that this is Nick's own van, not the replica one that was shown at the premiere. Money from the sale will go to the children's foundation to improve the quality of life for those in hospitals and hospices. Previous events from the Wallace and Gromits Children's foundation include the Wrong Trousers day.

Nicks Austin Van for Sale on Ebay

"Wallace & Gromit’s Children’s Foundation is a national charity raising funds to improve the quality of life for children in hospitals and hospices throughout the UK. Serious illness is always distressing but in a child it is cruelly so as it steals away childhood itself. The Foundation funds an innovative range of projects to ensure children in hospitals and hospices have a better, brighter future."

Monday, October 15, 2007

Animation and the Environment

For those who don't know it's blog action day today, so what can animators do for the environment?

Here's my quick list:

For model animators, recycle materials and re-use old materials rather than binning them. Think about what paints are being used and how they will breakdown when disposed of.

CGI animators, think about how much energy you are using, turn off un-necesary computers when not in use.

All animators could make a film about the environment and raise awareness.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

British Animation Awards - Submissions Deadline

The British Animation Awards have just anounced that their deadline for entries into next years awards is 30th NOVEMBER 2007. This year there are a couple of new categories, New Media and Voice Performance. BAA hope that everyone won't leave it till the last minute so submit your entries now!

The winners will be shown at the BFI, South Bank, London on March 13, 2008

The entry for is downloadable in PDF or Word format from the website: www.britishanimationawards.com

Trouble at' Mill for Wallace and Gromit

Nick Park teams up with Bob Baker co-writer for wrong trousers and close shave to make a 30 minute film called "Trouble at' Mill". The favourite Northern Team Wallace and Gromit set up a bakers with a windmill on top of the house and a collection of robotic tools to "help". Whilst they are out delivering their Top Bun - Dough to door delivery service, Wallace spots Piella Bakewell cycling past and instantly falls in love. However trouble is afoot as Gromit spots that 12 bakers have disappeared this year alone. You will have to wait to find out what happens.

Nick and team expect to take 7 to 8 months to complete the film and hence plan to release it with the BBC at the end of 2008. Nick reports that he is happier with the short film format as it allows them to keep Wallace and Gromit who they are rather than having to make adjustments to please an international audience who may not understand some of the cultural references.

If you need some help making your own Wallace and Gromit creation then you can attend a workshop at Woking's Lightbox with an Aardman model maker on 20th October and again on 17th November.

Official Wallace and Gromit Site
Manchester Evening News

Gromit to the Rescue

Monday, October 01, 2007

3D World Interviews Gerry Anderson

A fascinating interview with Gerry Anderson, covering his move from puppets to CGI, the Captain Scarlet series, his views on Team America: World Police and what's planned for the future.


Friday, September 28, 2007

The First Ever Russian Film Festival in London

The Academia Rossica and Apollo West End launched their Russian Film festival last night with a multi-screen showing of all 10 films of the festival. The festival continues till Wednesday 3rd with Sunday afternoon being reserved for a section of animation.

The animated film section includes the following films: My Love, Forgetful King, Zhiharka, Lavatory - Love Story, Foolish Girl, Kroshechka-Havroshechka and World Lullabies. The films have all been made over the last year by what Academia Rossica describes as a new generation of Russian animation artists many of who have won international awards.

So if it's still raining and you need something to do at 4pm on Sunday, head down to the Apollo West End for some Russian Animation.


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Short Film Nights

Following yesterday's discovery of Straight8 and the discovery of Dime Films on Facebook/MySpace, I got wondering just how many other short amateur film nights there were?

So far I've found:


and Cumbria

Shooting People have a wide events list that includes some screenings

Finally, a couple of short film links that are not related to film nights

Monday, September 24, 2007

Flare's "One Across" premiering at Straight8 'Art' this Sunday

A good friend and old work college Richard Hare (aka Flare) is premiering his film this weekend out West in Chiswick with Straight8. His film "One Across" is about Carter Bridge, a very distinctive pedestrian/cycle bridge across the railway in Cambridge. Richard has been making films for some years now and I've seen his "Trigger Finger" film which was made with another ex-college of mine "John Aspinal" (no not the one who owns the zoo).

Is This Wisdom?: "One Across" premiering at Straight8 'Art'

Monday, September 17, 2007

Machinima Festival Europe

Next month De Montfort University in Leicester plays host to the Machima Festival Europe, a first for Europe.

The event runs for 3 days (12th-14th Oct) and will have workshops, debates, presentations and film screenings with of course an awards ceremony. The 3 days will be aimed at different levels, schools and students on the Friday, general and novices on Saturday with an expert day on the Sunday.
Speakers include:

  • Paul Marino, Executive Director of the Academy of Machinima Arts and Sciences
  • Hugh Hancock, Director of Strange Company
  • Martyn Ware (founding member of Human League and Heaven 17)
  • Visiting Professor and CEO of Sleepydog, Toby Moore
  • Alex Chan, independent film-maker
  • Ricard Gras, Creative Director of La-Interactiva

There will be a separate exhibition area and the student union will be providing drinks.
Machima Festival Europe
12 - 14 October 2007 De Montfort University Campus Centre Leicester, UK

Monday, September 10, 2007

More Film Distribution

Here's some tips about Film Distribution from Wild-Sound Film Making that I found via a friend of a friend on MySpace. I will definitely be applying some of the comments about the press kit / electronic press kit to the Flea Circus Film website. My cast biographies are a little light at the moment and I've don't have the more detailed synopsi yet but these are good ideas and I will endevour to apply them. There is however, the full script available for those who are interested. Full credits and the basic details like running time will also be added as I think that's a good idea too.

The comment on the distributors controlling the casting is interesting and reflects the issue that many film directors have that the distributors have too much control over such aspects of the film. Luc Besson commented a few months back how the distributors can completely kill a film by their bad choices. Voice actors are key to animation and to swap actors later in production although not impossible can add significant extra effort to the animation and film editing and could fundamentally change the character of a film.

I have seen animated films where they were successfully voiced in multiple languages; Terkel in Trouble for example; but it was almost a year after the Danish release that we saw this in British dubbed version cinemas. The lipsync would likely need to be redone following a change of actors. It helps with the Flea Circus that there are no lips on the fleas (and that the fleas are invisible) so the Flea Actors can be changed if necessary but I would strongly resist such a change. I have contemplated having other languages or subtitles on the film and have been investigating how this can be added to a DVD.

The actors/distributors issue further re-enforces my thoughts that the Flea Circus Film will have to be independently distributed via the internet.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Dime Novel Screen

I stumbled across Dime Novel Screen via a real life friend on Facebook.

Thursday, 6th September 2007
From 8 pm — FREE ENTRY
rear of BAR STORY
213 Blenheim Grove, London SE15 [underneath Peckham Rye Station]

It sounded interesting so I thought I'd quiz them further, Patrick Samuel kindly provided some very comprehensive answers.

Flea Circus Director: What is the typical length of a Dime film?

Patrick Samuel: The length of films tend to vary greatly. Sometimes from short animated clips or visual experiments lasting under 2 minutes to documentaries and stories that last 15 minutes long. Most films fall into the region of 7 to 12 minutes though.

FCD: How many films do you show at each session?

PS: The night itself is split into 3 sections. The first part is the Welcome Screening. This usually lasts anything from 15 to 30 minutes and we always show the Favourite of the Night from the previous month along with other "welcome material" (a music video, or an animation, things which did not quite fit into the next part). The next part is what filmmakers generally aim for. It's called the Selection Screening and usually comprises of 5 short films. It all depends on the length of the films themselves.

Each film in this selection is followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers, questions from the audience and discussions with special guests as well.

The final part of the night (after the audience have voted and the Favourite has been announced) is the Open Screening. This is for people who just happened to bring a short film with them on the night. We show it then and there for them. If the panel agrees, then we include it in the following month's Welcome Screening or Selection Screening.

FCD: Who is a typical Dime Novel Screen film maker?

PS: Our filmmakers range from students to first time filmmakers to industry professionals. We’ve had Ben Hopkins, director of the modern British cult classic The Nine Lives of Tomas Katz and 37 Uses For A Dead Sheep showing his first ever piece National Achievement Day as well Nadya Brand, producer of the most recent music video for Within Temptation and star of the horror movie Broken showing her short film Prey. Soon we’ll have The History Boys and Amazing Grace actor Stephen Campbell Moore as a special guest with his short film!

FCD: Do you have animated films?

PS: We love animated short films and it’s great that Dime Novel Screen attracts so many of them. From the very first night we had Christoph Steger with his animated documentary Mother; Leo Bridle with Still Life With Flowers; Katy Davis with Gone Fishing; Elinor Geller with The Spirit Child; and Max Hattler with Collision to name but a short few who brought with them their award winning animations.

FCD: Given that I'd have never heard about you had you not been on Facebook, do you think that social networks are reducing the numbers watching and making films or do they help?

PS: I think that social networks such as Facebook and Mysapce are a great way to promote events such as this one. The amount of promotion that we do through them is astounding and the best of it is that it’s all free. The development of the internet over the years has allowed us to upload, view, comment on and pass on videos to each other is another great step forward in making filmmaking accessible to anyone with a camera and allowing them an outlet for their creativity. It has also meant that there is also a lot of junk floating around the internet as well and events such as Dime Novel Screen is a great way to sort through it all and present to its audience the top of the bunch and let them vote for the ones they like!

FCD: Finally, how would people get involved with Dime Novel Screen?

PS: People can get involved with Dime Novel Screen in a many number of ways. If they’ve made a short film they can of course contact us and we’ll let them know how to submit their film (usually by posting a DVD). We then invite them for an interview and photo shoot to promote them on our site with a filmmaker profile. Filmmakers are also encouraged to attend on the night of their screening for their Q&A. You can also get involved by of course coming down and member of our audience, voting for the films, participating in the Q&A’s and letting us know what you thought of the night. Another way is to support us by promoting the event and/or helping us to fund it as it’s all non-profit. As the organiser, I cover the costs myself and work with a team of volunteers and together we keep it going because we all love film and want to support the people who make films by providing them with a lively screening event.

Many thanks to Patrick and hopefully I'll be providing a report of one of their sessions at some point.

The Dime Novel Screen night of short films and live Q&A's with filmmakers in the unique setting of the Sassoon Gallery on the 6th of September from 8.00pm.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Carrara 6 Released

The upgrade and full versions of Carrara 6 can now be bought from the Daz shop. I downloaded mine yesterday before the rush started.

Carrara 6 details of features

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Poser Python the missing manual

I've been playing with python in Poser a bit and found the E-Frontier version was just a list of objects and methods so I was very glad to see this new product available from one of the known experts on Poser Python, Phil Cooke (known as PhilC on Renderosity).
The "book" consists of:

  • A 388 page PDF manual

  • Over 100 python scripts

  • Graphics files for use in the examples

  • XML files for use in the interface examples

  • 3d models for use in the examples

The book cleverly hooks the examples and scripts into the menus of Poser and in the manual it explains how this was done.

I found the PDF manual to be a little variable. The getting started section is clear and gently drops you into the Poser python world. The intro to python gives a good descriptions of the different types of control statements such as for, if, while etc however the description about boolean operators is overly complicated and confusing. However someone with basic programming knowledge in another language such as VB or Javascript should be able to easily understand the python way.

The bulk of the manual (184 pages) is about creating graphical user interfaces for your scripts, Phil looks at three different techniques and mentions some of their advantages and disadvantages from simple input boxes to complex interactive forms. This section is full of detail with screenshots and clear explanations. If you wish to create UI components for your script then you should buy this book for this section alone.

The next section of the manual provided a mirror of the efrontier manual. Phil covers some topics here in good detail with screenshots and examples and there others are more spartan. I would have liked to have seen this section restructured by topic, e.g. hair, geometry, posing etc.

The manual finishes with an explanation of the utility scripts provided. The provided scripts and examples are easy to read and clearly documented. The example scripts are repeated in the manual with additional explanation.

Although it is possible to navigate the book via the bookmarks and searching, I would have liked to have seen a table of contents and perhaps a small index. The structure of the document feels disjointed as it it's been assembled from others rather than planned properly. An annoying characteristic is having a heading on the bottom of one page followed by the text that it relates to on the next, I also spotted at least one spelling mistake.

The manual specifically mentions that it is for Poser 7 but lots of it also applies to Poser 6. Phil has explained some of the differences for Mac and PC users and where Poser Python features are limited.

Despite it's annoyances and limitations this should prove to be a handy reference guide and indispensable if I need to make any UIs for Poser. I think given that it's a first version the price is a little high but I benefited from the US/UK exchange rate so think I did ok.

See these store pages for details and sample pages:

Monday, August 27, 2007


Whilst following the discussions about Carrara 6 on the forums I saw a small comment about IClone having importers for Poser content. I followed up and was surprised to find that IClone was a full film studio in the computer. I've heard about people making Machinima films using various computer games and even online using Second Life. Now IClone's current content and films do look quite like most other machimima films with a noticable limit on the polygon counts. However with the ability to import from other sources such as all of the Daz3d, Content Paradise and Turbosquid plus all of the big 3D packages such as 3d studio, Maya, Poser and DazStudio should mean that there will be some quite sophisticated films.

Example films

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Carrara 6

Daz is previewing some of the new features of Carrara 6 on their forum and on youtube.
So far they have announced:

  • Ocean Primitive: Like the land that was added in an earlier version but this allows you to make different seas, lakes etc. Shark demo video.

  • Non Linear Animation: It allows users to create clips of animation (or poses) that can be reused and combined on multiple tracks of animations.

  • Hair: A couple of demo videos on Youtube and a screenshot on DigitalPainters.

  • Symmetrical Modeling: edit both sides of a object at the same time.

  • Displacement modeling

  • Enhancements to the vertex modeller including a bridge tool.

  • Improved speed for viewing and manipulating larger meshes.

  • Interactive Edge extrusion

  • Improved Content Browser including support for multiple runtimes for Poser content. N.B. Daz Studio Libraries are not currently supported.

  • Import of DSStudio scenes and Poser content and Skeleton import from DSStudio without the need for the creating applications.

  • Skinning and morphing targets improved and performance boosted and integrated with Carrara's animation timeline

  • Support for conforming clothing but not Poser's dynamic cloth.

  • The imported figures will be editable and have features that regular vertex object have such as creation of morph targets. Full body morphs will also be supported.

  • Rigid Body Simulation with a new updated physics engine with simulation on demand not when the application feels like it.

  • Ray tracing Improvements - Improved speed and quality of raytraced depth of field with blurry reflections or soft shadows.
    Depth of Field - Click to Zoom
    Blury Reflections - Click to Zoom

  • Carrara 6 will have a standard and a pro version.

  • Improved OpenGL support/performance.

  • Free upgrade for people who buy now.

  • Enhanced lighting controls such as shadow bias (used to correct self shadowing on low resolution objects) and lighting effects (CrossScreen, Glow, Nebula, Pulsator, Stars, VarioCross) see screenshot below.
    Lighting - Click to zoom

  • More transparency options for shaders, In-Scattering; an effect by the light reflected by small particles inside a medium such as cloudy water or a smokey room and a direct Absorption control. See Shark video above for an example of In-Scattering.

  • New scene wizards, the empty scene can now be created with different default scales which affects the default size of new objects.

  • There is also a new landscape wizard with a wide range of options for land and sky.
     Land- Click to ZoomSky - Click to ZoomLandscape Settings - Click to Zoom
  • http://www.digitalpainters.net/car/v4moutain2b.mov
  • Landscapes can be edited to use Render Time Displacement which uses less memory and can generate more details

  • An alternative rotation controller to help with, for example character animation

  • Enhanced editing of multiple selection for example if many lights are selected then you can change their brightness simultaneously or many object can be hidden at once.

  • Unicode Support: Support for unicode object names and choice of fonts in the UI.

  • Given that Daz have Collada Import and Export support in Daz Studio there is some speculation that there might be import and export support for Carrara 6. The is already a Collada plugin for C5.

There have been some observations that some of the new functions look like the previous generation of add-ins from Digital Carvers Guild such as Ground Control and Project Gemini. There are rumours that Erik is updating his current plugins to be compatible.

Microsoft's X format, import/export will be supported in a limited way in the release.

A flyer for C6 has been seen at Siggraph 2007.

Daz3D have announced that "Carrara 6 is scheduled to be released for sale on the DAZ 3D website in August 2007 with a special introductory discount being offered to DAZ 3D customers. The standard edition of Carrara 6 will have a MSRP of $249, and Carrara 6 Pro will have a MSRP of $549."

Daz3D's own Carrara 6 summary thread (needs registration)

For reference: Carrara 5 full feature list
Carrara 5 Pro vs Standard

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

LIAF 2007

The London International Animation Festival started yesterday with an excellent and varied selection of animations. There was a slight bias towards hand drawn animations but there were also some very creative pixilation and CGI examples with a couple of mixed media films too.

Carlitopolis' experiments with a marsupial was really a short spoof documentary with a very convincing CGI animal and raises the question of is this animation or simple a short film with animation used as a special effect.

Robin King's "Ten Thousand Pictures Of You" took pixilation to it's absolute limits with a story of troubled relationships and screwed up paper. Its a bit of a shame it felt the need to use the rather cliched going for a drive in an office chair. Otherwise it was very creative with some new effects I've not seen in pixilation before such as a person being pushed across a room and into a painting.

Joanna Quinn and Aardman both had excellent longer shorts but not quite long enough to make the Long Shorts session on thursday.

If you missed last nights showings then you have the oppertunity to see them again on Friday at 9pm at Renoir. The festival continues till Sunday. For more details see the LIAF website.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Naked Chef on Kids TV

Fresh One and Aardman Animations have combined forces to animate Jamie Oliver. The new series "Little J" looks at a young Jamie and his quest to become a chef. He's joined in the 52 part series by other characters such as a mad scientist called "Eggs Benedict", a band "The Vulgar Vegetables" and kitchen mentor Nonna. The 10 year old Jamie aims to inspire kids to think positively about good food.
The series is directed by Tom Parkinson who has previously worked on a film and series with Oz naturist anti-hero "Big Jeff" and short films Ramble On and ‘La Fille avec Les Orilles de Jambon’ (the girl with the bacon ears) both that were shown at festivals around the country.

Monday, August 20, 2007

ReelDump and ClipShare

I've mentioned options for sharing videos online on this blog before but there's a couple of new options. ReelDump is a site for sharing just 3d CGI work in progress, show reals, trailers and finished work. It has all the features you would expect, tags, channels and ratings as well as a search capability.

If you want to roll your own video sharing site you can do what I've done on the Flea Film Video Gallery and use the Youtube API. However if you want more control and sophistication then you could use the same technology as ReelDump which is called Clipshare a PHP/MySQL solution which at €153 is good value for money, check that your hosting company can support this solution as it's quite demanding with regards what needs to be installed.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

It's Ming

This month's 3D world magazine has some models from It's Ming. More details here when available.

Siggraph 2007 Computer Animation Festival

At Siggraph 2007 this week there was also a Computer Animation Festival, films from around the globe were shown and a couple were picked out for special merit.

Ark was previously shown at Cannes and looks at a dark future where a virus has destroyed most of the human race with the few remaining survivors escaping on an ark. The film is produced by Marcin Kobylecki and Grzegorz Jonkajtys. Grzegorz Jonkajtys previously won awards for his Mantis film. The pair has worked on films such as "The Cathedral (2002)" an equally artistic film so it's not too surprising to discover that Marcin Kobylecki comes from a painting background. I'm also pleased to see that Grzegorz has some animated fleas.

Marcin Kobylecki, Grzegorz Jonkajtys, Producers

Dreammaker is a student film by another Polish chap, Leszek Plichta from the film school in Baden-Württemberg. Adobe were so impressed with the images that he's made using 3DMax that they put the images into their current 3dMax brochure.

Dreammaker (Trailer)
Leszek Plichta
Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg

The final award went to a Tango film, En Tus Brazos (In Your Arms) by Fx Goby, Matthieu Landour and Edouard Jouret.

En Tus Brazos
François-Xavier Goby, Edouard Jouret, Matthieu Landour, Directors
Supinfocom Valenciennes

There is an opportunity to see En Tus Brazos and Dreammaker at the Bitfilm festival in Hamburg next month.

Although it did not win an award Joel Green's "The Itch" was shown on the BBC Breakfast news today.

The Itch
United Kingdom
Joel Green
Bournemouth University

Details of other films shown: