Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Shaun and Simpsons


Shaun the sheep's new show is soon to be shown on the screen. Shaun and his pals are online now and will be appearing on CBBC on 5th March. The Shaun the Sheep website is packed full of goodies including games, artwork, things to make and clips like the one below:

The Simpsons

The Simpsons Movie trailers are available online in wonderful 2D. All of your favourite and lots of your not so favourite characters are in this film. Some of the trailers are available in high definition so we might find that the film will eventually be released on a HD Disk.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Animated Oscars

At this weekends Oscars the Queen was the film in all of the papers, but the one I wanted to know about was Best Animated film. This award went to "Happy Feet" which is not surprising seen as though most people in the USA have been to see the film's stunning visuals and joyful song.

The Animated Short Film award went to the "Danish Poet". This Norwegian film has already won several awards in Aspen, Madrid, New York and Toronto and has appeared in over 30 film and animation festivals.

Kaspar the poet from Denmark takes a vacation to Norway to seek inspiration. In the process of the trip Kaspar has a series of seemingly unrelated mishaps which perhaps all add up to the true meaning of life? The style of the film is very distinctive with hand drawn and digitally coloured foreground with oil painted skys. Although you can't watch the whole 14 minute film online the film's website is very impressive with plenty of clips, interviews with the Director, desktop wallpapers and even a study guide. The link to buy the film from the National Film Board of Canada was not working for international purchases at the time of writing.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Breaking splines not strangulating Ring Masters

I completed the run in and bow video sequence this weekend which moves the flea film project a little closer to it's objective. The sequence starts with an announcement, the character runs in from the left of the screen and then bows to the audience. In the process I learnt a little about tweening with spline curves.

Basically my character was running in, thanks to Poser's walk designer and stopping and bending down. However when I added the moves to make him go back up, all sorts of strange things started happening. The poor little guy started strangling himself, his legs wrapped around themselves and his thumbs tied themselves in knots.

Thanks to an answer from PhilC on Renderosity, I discovered that the problem was my use of spline for the tweening which are the default and most natural looking tweeners available in Poser.

To see what's going on and why a future point might affect a historic point, I put together a simple experiment in excel. You can see in the left graph that the trendline (3rd order polynomial) is a simple straight line. However when I add new points to the right it causes the curve on the left to overshoot. The problem is that the curve fitting algorithm does not understand what I am attempting to achieve and in fact, I could not find any algorithm in excel that would sort this issue.

Luckily Poser does have an answer to this which is to "break spline". Rather than having the whole animation as only long spline curve you break it up into a series of shorter curves which are easier to manage and importantly don't interact with each other in this way. So in my example from excel I would need to break the spline at 4 and 6 and then add a couple of new key frames to smooth the curve between the two points.

So you need to ensure is if you have any animated poses that you start and finish them with a key frame with a break in the spline so that they don't interact with others. Once you've done this you can simply apply the pose from the library and it will blend seamlessly into the rest of the sequence.

You can find Phil's tutorial on this and other poser tips at his website.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Not enough time to watch classic films?

Like me you may not have enough time to watch all the films that you want to see, I missed Borat and Brokeback Mountain to name a few.

Thanks to STOIC TV's !Stuff programme, I discovered Angry Alien Productions. Using Photoshop, Adobe Streamline and Flash, Jennifer Shiman recreates a range of classic films. Each is parodied, summarised and the actors are replaced with bunnies to produces these brilliant shorts. Thanks to a deal with Starz on Demand® there should be plenty more where these came from. The latest re-enactments premiere exclusively on Starz on Demand and sometimes before being available via the Angry Alien site.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Joost's new deal

Viacom is teaming up with the skype owned Joost to show MTV (Music Television), BET (Black Entertainment Television), Comedy Central and movies from Paramount.

They will be providing both current and past content so perhaps I can re-live my days at STOIC by watching reruns of Bevis and Buthead and old MTV music videos from the 1990s?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

London Fashion Week

There's been a lot of debate about the models in London Fashion Week having to be shaped like twiglets so that the untalented designers can hang clothes on them like a hat stand. But I don't really have a strong option about it.

I was however reminded of the "models" sketches from 2DTV.
I did think about a quick animation but I needed to find 2 actresses with sexy voices, a bag of flour and some pipe cleaners.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Smiles and trains

As soon as I saw the new advert for TSB/Lloyds bank I suspected that there might be a connection with the "bag of smiles" advert seen back in June last year. As you can see from the screenshots below there's a lot of similarity in the styles.

Following a little research I discovered that Studio AKA is responsible for both these excellent animated adverts.
The music for "The Journey" is provided by Elena Kats-Chernin who can be found on Myspace.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Tiz Hamster Mr Fawlty

File Hamster is a new product from Mogware that allows you to manage version and revisions of your files.

Once the hamster has been setup to monitor a folder, all files modified in that folder are backed up and you can add an optional note. For systems such as Poser or Carrara which can store files in a text format there is the ability to turn on compression of these files. (Poser does have native compression but this can stop it working with other 3rd party tools). At any time you can go back and edit an older copy to make a new copy so you don't need to restore files as such. FileHamster is a workstation and user based solution so is not a tool for collaboration between users. Perhaps one of the Microsoft offerings such as team services or sharepoint would be more appropriate if you are looking for a team tool? File versions are stored as files so it should be fully compliant with your backup or networking solutions, check with Mogware if you have specific compatibility needs.

Based on the .Net 2.0 framework it runs on Windows XP, Windows 2003 and Vista.

For more details see:

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Cars and Flushed Away win Annies

Lightning McQueen and Mater won the Best Animated Feature at the Annie Awards this week for the Cars film by Pixar

Flushed Away won awards for animated effects, feature character animation, feature production design, voice acting (Ian McKellen), feature writing and best animated video game.

One of my favourites "Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends" won best animated TV production and music awards.

The Winsor McCay Award for Recognition of lifetime contributions to the art of animation was granted to Bill Plympton, Genndy Tartakovsky and Andreas Deja

More details of the Annie Awards

Making Toons has several mentions of Genndy Tartakovsky.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Museum of Childhood

If you turn right through the front door of the Museum of Childhood you will find a small gallery of photographic and cinematic history. There are magic lanterns, spinning disks, cameras, periscopes, simple 3D viewers, Phenakistoscopes, Praxinoscopes and Zoetropes.

As well as providing a look back into history this gallery explains some of the principles of moving images such as persistence of vision. Paper and pencils are provided so that you can make your own short aniation.

The V&A recently bought the museum and has rebuilt the entrance and fitted ramps throughout so the galleries are more accessible than they used to be.

The museum is also celebrating the 50th Birthday of Miffy.

"Happy Birthday Miffy".

Thursday, February 08, 2007


"MySpace has launched MyMovie MashUp in partnership with Vertigo Films – a competition to find the best short film director on MySpace. The winner will get to direct a feature film with a budget of over £1 million with the film scheduled for theatrical release in 2008."

Animated Exeter

Exeter City Council has been running a competition for schools to find the best animation created by under 18s in the South West.

Screening of the 17 schools entries starts on the 17th February.

The festival will continue with a selection of international films such as Terkel In Trouble, Cowboy Beebop and Peter and the Wolf and a diverse selection of workshops.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007


Whilst experimenting with web pages and blogs I got thinking about a colour theme for the flea film. Colour allows you to set a mood and provides continuity between the scenes and elements.

For the circus aspects I need some bright colours to match the fun theme but on a flip side I want a darker aspect to the film to reflect the fate of the performers and perhaps and element to set the period of Victoriana. The HP flea circus advert has this darker look but to a greater extreme that I want to.

So I'm reading up on the subject, a back edition 78 of 3D World has a series of articles on the subject and the book Digital Lighting and Rendering is also helping. (this is my second copy as the first got "lost" in a hotel in Denmark)

Red and Gold are going to be good colours to use like this example but perhaps more lighter colours too as this is a little imposing and dreary.
Other factors to consider are the continuation of the colour theme between the full size world of the Flea Ring Master and the miniature world of the flea circus.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Love of the Game

Here's a short film by a talented chap called Paul Smith. I saw this back last year at the London International Animation Festival and it's now up on MySpace for you all to watch. According to my source, it was all shot in his garage and did not have the big budgets of some of his contemporaries at the festival.

Love of the Game

"Football is a game enjoyed by many different people. This short film is a series of interviews exploring the reasons WHY?...or WHY NOT?..."

Friday, February 02, 2007

Dreamworks and Aardman

This week has been a week of DreamWorks and Aardman news. The two companies had planned to make 5 films together but have parted ways after just 3 of them.

The films made in the deal were:
  • Chicken Run
  • Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were Rabbit
  • Flushed Away
The claim from DreamWorks is that the films were unprofitable which seems a reasonable reason to split, but for me the numbers just don't add up.

Here's a few films to help the comparison:

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (one of the all time most profitable films of all time)
Opening Weekend: $136M
USA: $423M
Global: $1,065M
Estimated Cost: $150M ($450M for the 3 films)

Wallace and Gromit
Opening Weekend: $16M (top for that weekend)
USA: $56M
Global: $186M
Cost: $30M

Happy Feet
Opening Weekend: $41.6M
USA: $192M
Global: $355M

Monster House
Opening weekend $22M
USA: $74M
Global: $137M
Cost: $75M

Over the Hedge
Opening Weekend $38M
Global: $239M

Ant Bully
Global: $54M
Cost: $50M

Polar Express
Cost: $170M

Cost: $100M

USA: $19M
Global: $61M
Cost: $40M (target)

Flushed Away
USA: $62M
Global: $154M
Cost: $149M Split between ($90M production, $30M prints and advertising)

Looking at these figures, the Wallace and Gromit made a not insignificant profit of $150M and Flushed Away is breaking even so far. Of course these numbers don't take into account deals with people such as McDonalds or other Merchandising and they don't include DVD sales. Flushed away cost more than average for a CGI film, this is probably because of learning and because early in production it was going to be stop motion but was changed to be CGI so some costs were written off. It may also have been because of the work force being in different countries. But the claim from Dreamworks that it made a massive loss from the film seems unfounded.

Aardman and Dreamworks claim to have separated amicably so there should be few loosers from this split. As we saw a few weeks ago Aardman have plenty of work on and seem to be doing quite well and have announced that they are planning on making another Wallace and Gromit film. However one predicted looser is the Crood Awakening film written by John Cleese which is believed to have been put on hold by Dreamworks. A reworking of the Hare and the Tortoise in mockumentary style was also planned.

Some related links.

Marketing Spend on films

Cost of Animation

Animator Pay

Curse of the Were Rabbit