Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Puppets using puppets - Puppet puppetters

I'm fascinated by the sequence at the beginning of "Being John Malkovich" in which the marionette performs with an even smaller marionette. It raises the question that every animator and sure feels which is "just who is in control here"?.

When I enquired to the British Puppet and Model Theatre Guild they advised me that this is not a new idea. It's been used since at least 1940 by performers such as Eric Bramall and the Stavordales. The themes of the harlequins and the story of Pinochio was a popular one for puppet puppeteers. Both Gepetto performing with Pinochio and also a smaller model by Bramall of Pinochio with a tiny Jimminy Cricket have been used.

The idea of stop motion puppets making puppets is also a recurring theme in animated films with recent examples shown in the Imagine Animation student film competion (second film) and in the wonderful Komaneko "The Cat Who Makes Stop-Motion Films".

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Animation festivals

There are a few festivals and conferences to look forward to in February 2009.

Aminex festival International Festival of Animation and Computer Games, Middlesborough 2-6 February 2009
Imagina in Monaco 4-6 February 2009
Animated Exeter 13 - 21 February 2009

Animated Exeter is in it's 10th Year and has previously showcased great animations such as Peter and the Wolf. The two week programme includes workshops, screenings and talks.

Animex and Imagina are on the boundary of computing and animation. Animex focusing on computer gaming and Imagina focusing on visualisation and simulation.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Carrara 7 Preview

Daz3D have kindly posted a series of videos on Youtube showcasing the new functionality in Carrara 7 such as 3D Paint, modelling in the assembly room, multipass rendering, enhancements to non linear animation, opengl textures and UV map creation, editing and unfolding.

STOP PRESS: Carrara 7 is now launched. as available to be bought and downloaded from the Daz3d site.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Aardman BBC1 double premiere on Christmas Day

At 5pm on BBC1 on Christmas day TV premiere of "The Curse of the Were-Rabbit" will be shown.
And at 8:30pm we have the UK premiere of Aardmans's latest claymation film, A matter of loaf and death.

Wallace and Gromit to be shown on Christmas Day

The latest film is a 30 minute murder mystery. Wallace has opened his own bakery, Top Bun and a 'cereal killer' is killing off all of his rival bakers in the town. Wallace is love smitten with Piella Bakewell and Gromit is worried that his master will be next for the chop.

After completing the film in just 7 months, Nick Park says that he's giving his brain a rest. Aardman are not resting though and are busy recruiting for both CG and Stop Motion positions for work on "The Pirates!"

Animation fans in Australia were lucky enough to see this film a month early.

Pixar Technical Memos

Thanks to a comment from Christopher Hatfield on Keith Lango's blog, I've discovered the Pixar Technical Memos Library. Both Chris and Keith have been looking at non photorealistic shading in CGI, specifically Toon Rendering.

This library of short technical articles covers some of my favourite animation/rendering topics such as Toon Rendering, Depth of Field and much more. Many of the articles were written to go with Ratatouille but a believe that there are some references to Cars2 there.

Friday, December 12, 2008


The stopmotion film Coraline will be out early next year and there already appears to be some fantastic marketting materials to go with this film from Laika.

Mike Brent is lucky enough to own box 9 of 50 and has already disected one of the stopmotion arms that came in the box.

I'll be looking out for this film as I love the style animation and it's also got Dawn French doing some of the voices which will be brilliant.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

RIP Oliver Postgate

One of my animation heros, Oliver Postgate has died aged 83. He was the creator of charming animations such as Bagpuss, Ivor the Engine and Noggin the Nog and an inspiration to us all.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

LIAF and Poo Productions launch a new animated film competition

The London International Animation Festival 2009 announces a joint competition with Poo Productions.

"How many people wash their hands before preparing food? And how many people, particularly men, wash their hands after going to the toilet? 80% DON'T!!

LIAF and Poo Productions are launching a competition to find short animated films that deal with the serious subject matter of sanitation and hygiene but in an edgy, irreverent and humorous way.

The winning films will form part of an awareness-raising campaign with a global reach to publicise the importance of adequate sanitation and good hygiene practice - both of which are inextricably linked to clean water.

The best films will screen at LIAF 2009 and other high-profile events, and the winning film, as chosen by a professional jury, will win a prize of £1,000.

Entry is open to all animated films dealing with this subject matter, entry is free and we need to receive your films by May 15th 2009.

You can read more about the competition here and download the entry form."

Monday, December 01, 2008

British Animation from Channel 4

This Friday at 6pm the Curzon Soho will be showing some of the best of British Animation from Channel 4. Commissioning editor Clare Kitson has selected some of the most remarkable films produced by the channel. Some of these films contain themes of an adult nature and hence there is an over 16s advisory.
Also being celebrated is the launch of the book of the same name.

British Animation: The Channel 4 Factor Book

British Animation: The Channel 4 Factor

Watch British Animation: The Channel 4 Factor Curzon Soho 5th Dec @ 6pm

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Pixar's Wall-E comes out on DVD in the UK tomorrow. It's available either as a 2 disk special edition or on blue ray.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Carrara 7 Beta

Daz3D have released a Beta version of the popular 3D modelling and animation tool Carrara.

"The purpose of this public BETA is to provide the most accurate and transparent presentation of the new features to our customers allowing users the chance to gauge for themselves the worth of this latest release."

Features include:

  • 3D Paint
  • UV Editing/Unfolding
  • Figure Content Levels of Detail Support
  • Vertex Modeling in Assembly Room
  • Rendering Optimizations for Transparency
  • Multi-pass Rendering
  • Larger Texture in OpenGL Display (4096x4096)
  • NLA Track Groups
  • COLLADA export (PC only for Beta release)
  • DAZ Studio Content Support Improvements
Sign up for Carrara 7 Beta
Carrara Documentation Wiki

Friday, November 14, 2008

Daz3D Animation Competition

The sellers of 3D models and 3D software Daz3d are running an animation competition for uses of the aniMate Plug-in for DAZ Studio.

Everyone gets a $5 voucher for participating (submitting an entry). Also gift certificates for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place finishers with the top prize a $500 gift certificate! Competition Details

There are 5 different categories Comedy ,Drama ,Dance-off ,TV-Spot and
Creative Inspiration.

The deadline is soon it's 30th November but Daz3D believe you can animate much quicker with their 3D software.

You can also view previous winners and rate animated videos.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Little Big Planet

Little Big Planet is a new game for the PS3 from Sony Computer Entertainment Europe

It's main features are 1) The characters are made from sacking and 2) you can make your own levels and share them with other people. Everyone from their own advertising agency to the BBC's "Something for the weekend" have designed their own levels and then played around with them. The game provides an extensive range of flexible building blocks such as pipes, gears, cactus, rocks and houses that all interact with the physics in the game so that you can swing on ropes and roll around on drums.

As with Second Life and other similar games I imediately wondered if it will be used to make Machinima films. When I put the search into google the toolbar highlighted the fact that I was not the first the think of this idea, it's been discussed on Machinima.Com and there are already films up there on youtube.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


The company behind Purple Ronnie, Coolabi has bought out Licensing by Design who are the current licensee of the marketting and merchandising rights for Bagpuss, The Clangers and Ivor the Engine animations origionally made by Peter Firmin and Oliver Postgate.

Coolabi said Bagpuss in particular had "significant potential" for development and intends to extend the current license beyond 2013. This move extends their current catalogue which also includes Sir Gadabout, King Arthur’s Disasters, The Worst Witch and Fungus The Bogeyman.

AdvertisementBagpuss and friends shop
This shop makes it easy to buy a wide range of products including videos, DVDs and books and a wide range of characters for you to love.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Zombie Pirates

Just a quick note to let you know about the excellent work being done by Marc Spess on his film Zombie Pirates.

Marc was having similar issues to myself with a long running film project that was being made in his spare time, finding time and motivation to get the film completed has proved an issue for him and many other animators. Time management, lack of calendar and having a large ship taking up space in the garage were also mentioned as an issue.

Marc has set himself a 90 day challenge to get the film finished. He set himself the target of working on the film for 2 hours each day and blogging the progress. He's using a calendar to plan out his time and to block out time for the projects and has his todo list properly written and has visualised his targets in the form of a montage.

He's currently up to day 25 and has been building props, sets, shooting scenes and getting his missen ropes untied.

So in the words of Marc, "Stop procrastinating, complete your film".

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

London film festival

The London Film Festival starts today and runs till the 30th looking at the website the collections of short animated films are already fully booked but the feature films are still available.

LFF Shortcuts and Animation

Barry the Worm

Mia and the Migoo

A Tale of Two Mozzies

Friday, October 10, 2008

Eager Beaver

A very Eager Beaver
Eager Beaver was the PSTOIC entry for the Great STOIC Bodge 2000

What is the Great STOIC Bodge?

The Great STOIC Bodge 2000 is a competition devised by STOIC to interest people in the process of video making.
The rules, as far as we could tell were as follows:

  • Single camera
  • No editing other than in camera
  • 50 minutes time limit
  • Finished piece approx 2 to 5 minutes long
  • Audio Dub Available

The PSTOIC entry was "Eager Beaver" a video comic based on the story of Ian Carney and Woodrow Phoenix from Slab-O-Concrete. The technique was one developped by Carl Fairhurst and Andy Clark whilst at STOIC in the 1990s. Basically it's a story book filmed and voiced over with some minimal animation. The same technique has subsequently been used with a book called "The bear at the huntsman's ball".

The Cast
  • Beaver : Olivier Crepin Le-Blond
  • Clem Clam : Andy Clark
  • Mrs Clam : Janette Wickham
  • Narator : Rex Wickham
  • Public Safety Anouncers : Andy, Rex
  • John Lenon : Rex
  • Singing Angel : Janette
  • Other Beatles : Andy, Olivier, Janette
  • Lighting : Fluorescent Tube Company
  • Sound Effects : Wickham and Wife Ltd
  • Catering : Union Bar and Burger King
  • Set : STOIC Studio
Sound Track
  • Caught in a Trap
  • We all live in a Yellow Submarine
  • And the title tune "Eager, Eager, Eager, Beaver"

Unfortunately the film is believed to be lost shortly after it was made (the book can still be ordered from all good suppliers)

John Kricfalusi has recently analysed the composition of an older (and completely different) version of the film Eager Beaver produced by Chuck Jones

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Acting for animations

An acting for animators training course by Twelve J is running in November, price and dates to be announced. Previous 1 day courses by Twelve J were £160 so I'd expect this course to be in the same ballpark.

The course will be presented by Ed Hooks, author of the book of the same name and seasoned animator. Brad Bird described Ed as follows, "Ed Hooks knows that in the very best animated films, movement defines character: Lady moves differently than Tramp, Woody moves differently than Buzz, and Wallace moves nothing like Gromit. By looking outside the medium itself, and by intelligently and thoughtfully examining character animation from an actor's perspective, Mr Hooks has made a valuable contribution towards deepening our understanding of it."

This should be a good course, I only wish I had to time and funds to attend.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Flip Animation Festival

Next month is the Flip Animation Festival in Wolverhampton.

Being based in the heart of the Midlands should enable a wide range of people to visit the festival. There will be workshops, experimental animation, panel sessions, feature films and of course short animations.

The full programme is still being finalised but some of the items already selected are: Ninja Theory; Osbert Parker; Sita Sings the Blues; Animated Doctor Who; 4mations and Boulder Media.

Tickets should on sale shortly.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Fidget the Witch

I've just discovered via the stop motion forum that there's a great stop motion project out there called "Fidget the Witch"

Paul J. McConnochie from Inverclyde, Scotland has been making some excellent models and has solid a project outline. The story looks like a good idea and the previsualisation of the witch in the trees is excllent so I believe the project will be sucessful. Like myself Paul's project has had some significant pauses but he's back on the case and if his animation is anywhere near as good as his modelling the results will be fantastic.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Digital SLR Cameras

There's a review of some DSLR cameras in the November 2008 PCPro with the Sony Alpha A200 comming out tops and making it onto their A-List. The interesting thing for me was that the price of some of these is less than I paid for my Olympus 5050Z a few years back. At this price having a DSLR would be be a plausable upgrade path for my Olympus for making stop motion films with a digital still camera. As well as this advantage there are several others such as significantly longer battery life, better shooting in low light.

Some of the Sony A200's significant features for the animator are the presets for Exposure and White balance (and the ability to set that based on colour temperatores), the optional wired remote and EXIF support. You need to be careful that your animation software or video editing software supports the camera and these higher resolutions as some software is charges a premium for HD support. I don't seem to be able to locate any information about software remote control of this camera.

There is a more detailed report on the Sony Alpha at Imaging Resources and English Manual is available on the Sony FTP site.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Smoke and Mirrors 48 hour challenge

The Post Production company Smoke and Mirrors is running a short film making competition where the challenge is to make a film in 48hours.

The entrants have to be teams from UK based advertising and production companies and must register by 10th October to be given the secret topic that they must make their film about.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Widescreen Animation

Kramer Klaymation make a good point this month about widescreen for animaton and I've blogged about how to configure Moviemaker for 16:9 and HDTV before.

One thing I'd like to add to this thought is that to get the best results you can't just add this on at the last minute. If you do that you risk having dead space or simply black bars on your work which is really just wasteful. You need to plan to have widescreen from the beginning. The change of screen format means that you have more width to work with. You need to handle the implications this will have on your set design, the lighting and the movement of the actors. You may need to make your sets at a different aspect ratio, a row of houses or castle wall might need to be longer. Will more powerful (or just more) lights be needed? Perhaps a character will have to take more steps to cross the set? This applies to all forms of animation.

Monday, September 22, 2008

London International Animation Festival Winners

From the London International Animation Festival Newsletter.

The best films as voted by the judges were:
International Programme 1: The Tiny Fish - Gregory Malshev (Russia)
International Programme 2: Skhizein - Jeremy Clapin (France)
International Programme 3: The Life Size Zoetrope - Mark Simon Hewis (UK)
International Programme 4: The Irresistible Smile - Ami Lindholm (Finland)
International Programme 5: Sundance 'Forgetfulness' - Julian Grey (Canada)
Digital Panorama: Drift - Max Hattler (UK)
Abstract Panorama: As They Pass/Mnemosyne 01 - B.Bodenauer (Austria)
Puppet Panorama: Pecatum Parvum - Asya Lukin (UK) AND Madame Tutli-Putli - C.Lavis,
M.Szczerbowski (Canada)
Long Shorts: Three Love Stories - Svetlana Filippova (Russia)
Best British film: Stand Up - Joseph Pierce (UK)
Best Overall film: The Life Size Zoetrope - Mark Simon Hewis (UK)
The audience votes were:
International Programme 1: I Met The Walrus - Josh Raskin (Canada)
International Programme 2: Skhizein - Jeremy Clapin (France)
International Programme 3: Oktapodi - J.Bocabelle, F.Chanioux, O.Delabarre, T.Marchand,
E.Mokheberi (France)
International Programme 4: Procrastination - Johnny Kelly AND The Irresistible Smile
- Ami Lindholm (Finland)
International Programme 5: A Mouse's Tale - Benjamin Renner (France)
Digital Panorama: Lifeline - Tomek Duckl (Hungary)
Abstract Panorama: Material - Boran Richard (Canada)
Puppet Panorama 1: Madame Tutli-Putli - C..Lavis, M.Szczerbowski (Canada)
Puppet Panorama 2: L'Animateur - Nick Hilligoss (Australia)
Long Shorts: Animal - Tatu Pohjavirta (Finland)
British Panorama: The Reason I Collect - Emma Curtis (UK)

Monday, September 15, 2008

UK Stop Motion Supplier

There are several suppliers of stop motion armatures in the USA but that requires any components to be shipped over here, savings made on the exchange rate could be lost on the P&P. However there is now Animation Supplies, a UK supplier of armatures and other stop motion bits. It's run by an animator called "Andrew Simmons" who studied at the Surrey Institute of Art and Design.

Animation supplies are biased towards the stop motion animator and can supply Armatures, Acrylic eyes, Magnets as well as kits with all of these. For those who want to make their own armatures the individual parts such as Ball Joints, Universal Joints, Feet, Threaded Rod and Stainless Steel Rod are available. Aluminium wire can also be purchased. Feedback and ideas shared at the Animation Supplies Forum and Guestbook.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Inspiration - Mat Irvine

Mat Irvine was one of my childhood heros and I'm sure is partially responsible for me getting into Television and animation. Matt appeared on many of the kids TV programmes when I was young from Blue Peter to Multicoloured Swap Shop and explained how to make spaceships and special effects. He was responsible for many of the effects shots in Scifi such as Blake Seven and Dr Who as well as factual programmes such as Think of a Number, Tomorrow's World, QED, Horizon and The Sky at Night.

More recently Matt has been involved in creation of Robot Wars, Techno Games and he's written a whole stack of books on making different kinds of models.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Pinchcliffe Grand Prix

Thanks to a Norwegian friend visiting London, I got to see the remastered 2005 edition of the "Pinchcliffe Grand Prix" by Ivo Caprino. This film by Ivo Caprino was origionally going to be a series but was abandoned for a few years before they decided to remake it into a film. The film has been enhanced twice since it's 1970s release and the quality of the DVD version shows the models and sets in their origional glory.

The story involves bicycle mender Theodore Rimspoke and his pals Sonny Duckworth and Lambert the Hedgehog. They decide to enter a motor race against Theodore's rival and ex-apprentice and along with the help of an Arab Sheik they create and race the Il Tempo Gigante.

The film's style and characters remind me of Michael Bentine's Potty Time, particularly the Lambert character. The film is imaginatively animated and the characters, sets and inventions are full of wonderful details.

I've not seen the film available in the UK but you can purchases it from the World of Caprino website along with radio controlled models of the Il Tempo Gigante and talking toy Sonny and Lambert (in Norwegian).

Friday, August 29, 2008

5th London International Animation Festival

Next week sees the start of the 5th London International Animation Festival. 220 films from 28 countries will be shown from 1st September till 7th at the Curzon Soho, the Renoir, the Horse Hospital and the Rio Cinema.

The full programme will contain sessions on Digital film, Puppet Films, Documentaries, British Films, International Films, Swiss Films and Abstract Films. In addition to all this will be Q & A sessions from special guests Jonathan Hodgson and Josh Raskin and even more. If previous years are anything to go by then this will be an excellent event. For those with time to spare you can save money by buying a festival pass.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

London In Motion

Forwarded press release

Do you have an interest in urban life and/or Eastern Europeans in

The ‘London in Motion’ project consists of two series of
extra-curricular documentary film workshops open to UCL postgraduate
students and staff as well as non-academics from the wider community.
Films completed during the course will be screened at the LIDF and the
Canary Wharf Film Festival in 2009.

The course is experimental in nature. It will provide access to the core
concepts of documentary filmmaking, as well as offering an opportunity
for content-rich insights from The Bartlett Faculty of the Built
Environment, the School of East European and Slavonic Studies, as well
as professional filmmakers. Key films and key texts will be viewed and

Students will be encouraged to use all forms of new visual media to tell
a contemporary London story. The challenge will be to see how film
enriches and provides research insights, while at the same time creating
new ways of experiencing that research. The course has been designed by

Applications are welcomed from postgraduate students and staff from UCL,
as well as non-academics in the wider London community who can
demonstrate an interest in either the theme of the built environment
and/or Eastern Europeans in London. The deadline to submit your
application is 1st September 2008. Please visit for more information.

‘London in Motion’ is a joint initiative between PocketVisions, School
of Slavonic and Eastern European Studies (SSEES), and the Bartlett
(Urban Film Society). It is funded by UCL Futures.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Midnight Movies at the Curzon Soho

The Curzon Soho is providing a sneak preview of the London International Animation Festival. Their Midnight Movies animation night is on Friday August 29th with two films and a very special surprise film introduced by special guest host: Nag Vladermersky (LIAF director).

The evening kicks off with a specially selected short film followed by an amazing animated feature. Choose between classic SciFi animation 'Fantastic Planet', the mesmerising award-winning sci-fi with sumptuous soundtrack, or 'Paprika', the 2006 anime from the director of Perfect Blue.

There will be a DJ in the pre-screening party from 9:30pm.

Curzon Midnight Movies Animation Night

Friday, August 15, 2008

Scripts, storyboarding and animatics

Fish from Morilyon animation has put together a great introduction to how to plan your animation. He covers everything from the initial idea or outline through scripting, storyboarding and animatics.

A very handy tool he mentions is Celtx which is a planning tool designed for films but can also be used for animations as Fish has done.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Soho Shorts Winners

The winners of the animation section of the Soho Shorts festival were:

1st place
Directed by: Joseph Pierce
National Film and Television School

2nd place
“The Control Master”
Directed by: Run Wrake
Sclah Films

3rd place
“Sony Bravia: Play Doh”
Directed by: Frank Budgen and Darren Walsh
Passion Pictures

Monday, July 28, 2008

Soho Shorts

The Soho Short film festival started this weekend, there's still a chance to see some animation tomorrow and Wedneday.

Tuesday 29th, 10am, Curzon Soho
Tuesday 29th, 3pm, VMI
Wednesday 30th, 4pm, Crown & Two Chairmen

This years animated short films were:

Johnny Kelly
Royal College Of Art
A hands-on, gloves-off study into the practice of putting things off.

Sony Bravia – Play Doh
Frank Budgen & Darren Walsh
Plasticine bunnies take over New York.

Flat Earth
Thomson & Craighead
Goat Media Ltd
A journey round the world through the eyes of bloggers.

Userguides No.10: Administering First Aid
Richard Fenwick
An ill-advised trip to the first-aid office.

Untitled (Wypke)
W Jannette Walen
About a girl in a room, and the experience of a minute.

Rob Wicksteed
Solent University
A conservative suburbanite struggles with the presence of an unwanted visitor.

The Accident
Sara Nesteruk
Black Watch Productions
A childhood memory is presented in a number of ways.

Headcases: Geriatric Action
Henry Naylor
Red Vision
Geriatric action heroes take on an evil marriage factory.

Jo Lawrence
Picasso Pictures
A story about the "radium girls" of the 1920s clock-dial factories.

The Electric Koi
Sam Lanyon Jones & Andrew Cope
Picasso Pictures
A young girl learns a lesson about loyalty and betrayal.

Matthew Walker
Arthur Cox
A man makes a phone call – and he answers.

Stand Up
Joseph Pierce
National Film And Television School
The truth behind a comedian’s jokes leaks through.

John and Karen
Matthew Walker
Arthur Cox
John the polar bear apologises to Karen the penguin after an argument.

Adel Kerpely &Jihyun Ahn
A fat man eats up everything around him. By the time he stops, it is too late.

Let Me In
Simon Tofield
Tandem Films
A hungry cat resorts to increasingly desperate measures to get indoors.

The Weatherman
Will Becher
Seven Animation
When his forecasting machine malfunctions, a weatherman’s life takes a dark turn.

The Red Suitcase
Saul Freed
Black Watch Prod.
A knitted newcomer unsettles the peace of a small town.

Ed Suckling
Royal College Of Art
Sam finds a badly beaten woman outside his flat.

Where The Wild Things Are
Eddie Fett
Black Milk
Close your eyes and you might see where the wild things are.

Sun In The Night Time
Anne Wilkins
A mother waits for her lost son to return. Her daughter plays with an imaginary friend.

LK Dhaliwal
The true story of one woman’s struggle to gain asylum in the UK.

Amy Engles
Nora Productions
An android’s search for freedom leads her on a lonely journey to a new future.

The Control Master
Run Wrake
Sclah Films
In a peaceful half-tone city a heroine and her ally face the ultimate threat.

Josie’s La La Land
Eb Hu
A dying girl’s last words.

How To Destroy The World: Computer Games
Pete Bishop
The Shop/a and p
Four ways to destroy the world faster

The rest of the programme at can been see at:

Sunday, July 27, 2008

AFI DALLAS International Film Festival

AFI DALLAS International Film Festival – Animation Competition

2009 Call for Entries

Submission Now Open


Early: October 17, 2008
Regular: November 21, 2008
Late: December 5, 2008


Target Filmmaker Award for Best Narrative: $25,000
Target Filmmaker Award for Best Documentary: $25,000
Current Energy Earth Friendly Award: $10,000
MPS Studios Texas Filmmaker Award: $20,000*
*Cash, Goods and Services from MPS Studios

For more information and to submit a film,


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Peg Bar - Animators Event - Dublin Aug 7th

Peg Bar Thursday 7th August 2008, Murrays Bar, O’Connell St. 7pm

"peg bar is a fun gathering of animators. The aim of this gathering is to bring Irish animators together to view each others work, chat and make new cool animator friends. This years peg bar affair will be held upstairs in Murrays Bar on O’Connell St. At the venue there will be two projectors and a load of wide screen"

Peg Bar Thursday 7th August 2008, Murrays Bar, O’Connell St. 7pm

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

More creature discomforts

Back in November the Creature Discomforts adverts for Leonard Cheshire Disability were first shown, this week there will be more new characters and adverts but the message is the same and beautifully expressed by the voice behind Tim the Tortoise Ian Wilding, "See the person, not the disability".
There's lots of info on the site about how the adverts were made and the people who helped make them. You can also order the DVD of the adverts from the website.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Famous stars meet with MP

Animation stars Wallace and Gromit met with Edmonton MP, Andy Love who was wearing his wrong trousers for the childrens charity event "Wrong Trousers Day" last week. The MP wore some astrological trousers to inspire his North London constituents into helping this event raise money for projects to help children in hospices and hospitals throughout the UK.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Animation master class with Pixar’s Andrew Gordon!

Escape Studios are hosting a 2 day character animation master class in London on Thursday 10th and Friday 11th July 2008. It will be presented by Andrew Gordon from Pixar Animation Studios.

Topics will include:

  • review of basic principles
  • staging
  • pose design
  • gestures
  • and high-level polishing techniques used to lift a shot from being good, to being great.
The master class will include a screening of Pixar’s new short film 'Presto'.

In other Pixar related news, a giant model of the robot Wall-E has been sighted outside the Empire in Leicester Square to promote the release of the film on 4th July.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Wire removal using travelling matt

Often in stop motion "wires" are used to allow models to complete jumping or other gravity defying moves. It is important to note that these are strong stiff wires that can support the model completely not suspended wires that would cause the model to sway about. Other tricks for cheating gravity are the use of glass sheets with items stuck to them (favourite for rain drops) or to rotate the whole set through 90deg and shoot vertically downwards.

When I made the Ratobat film, I manually painted out each of the "bridge" frames with a "clean image" background to complete the jump sequence. This was quite tedious even through there only about 25 frames for that sequence.

Kramer Klaymation this month has compiled a list of various techniques for removing wires (or other items) from your shot and has a video tutorial on using Open Source 3D software to create a travelling matt which replaces the wire with the clean shot. Some video editing software has the facility for adding drawings and hence can also use this kind of technique.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Javier Leon - CGI Clay

Javier Leon is a CGI artist who demonstrates the power of 3D Max. He's created some excellent images that mimic the claymation and model style of Aardman and to be brutally honest he's done a much better job of it than was done for Flushed Away.

Thanks to Kramer Klaymation for find this.

Friday, May 16, 2008

London International Animation Festival

The dates for the London International Animation Festival LIAF 2008 have now been set and they are Tuesday September the 2nd to Sunday September the 7th, one week later than last year.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Carrara 6.2 and NLA

There's an upgrade to Carrara out today and there's plenty of good bug fixes but some that I'm specifically interested in related to the Non Linear Animation.

  • Simplified NLA clip/pose display and manipulation
  • Improved auto blending between clips and pose in NLA tracks
  • NLA Bounding Box no longer separates from object during playback.
  • NLA, Offset relative to previous clip Translate values is now correct.
  • NLA tracks no longer go invisible when you create a Master Pose and reappear when you change selection

I believe that these will resolve the issue I was seeing when trying to figure out how to create the offsets when writing my Carrara NLA Tutorial.

One of the reasons Daz have created this update is so that their new product Mimic Pro for Carrara will work, this is currently discounted by 30% for the next few weeks. This is a good price for people who don't have Mimic but there is currently no economical upgrade path for those using both Mimic Pro and Carrara.

My tips for using Mimic will mostly become obsolete when using Mimic embedded into Carrara as the majority of these revolve around the import/export processes.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Poser Pro

Since taking over Poser, SmithMicro have not been sitting back and milking the cash cow, instead they appear to have been beavering away to produce PoserPro. The new product is aimed at professional 3d artists.

This new version introduces 64bit rendering and network rendering providing a bit of grunt for the more demanding users. Early reports have indicated halving in render time and the change should also allow for larger images to be rendered utilising the larger memory space available.

There is also support for COLLADA but it can import less than it exports which might prove limiting for some people. This partial support for COLLADA seems to be missing the point to me but I suppose it looks good on the marketting material. The package also includes add-ins for 3ds Max, Maya and CINEMA 4D which again shows the limits of their COLLADA support.

Support for HDRI and Normal maps should help people generate more realistic results.

The price of the upgrade and from new cost will be restrictive to some but should not be an issue for professionals.

On a completely separate note, there is a alpha version of an Collada Plugin for Carrara this again provides limited imports and exports to the Collada format.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Animators Glossary - Blocking and Beats

The history behind the concept of Blocking can be seen from Wikipedia's article about blocking in the theatre.

"Blocking is a theatre term which refers to the precise movement and positioning of actors on a stage in order to facilitate the performance of a play, ballet, film or opera. The term derives from the practice of 19th Century theatre directors such as Sir W. S. Gilbert who worked out the staging of a scene on a miniature stage using blocks to represent each of the actors. (An example of this can be found in Mike Leigh's 1999 film Topsy-Turvy.)"

For animators it's basically the same. Blocking is the stage where a character's gross movements, timing, and poses are created. This can be done to aid with the visualisation of the film or to examine the overall timing of the film. It can answer questions such as how long will it take for a character to walk across the stage or how close does a figure need to be next to a table to be able to pick up an item.

In CGI, this step can be used as a work in progress, for stop motion animators it could be done as a rough shoot at a reduced frame rate and for drawn animation sketches or storyboard pages can be used. In all cases the models and sets used can be a lot simpler than the final versions. The number of shots/drawings/key frames need will vary on the the type of motion.

A related term to blocking is "beats", this is described by Jason Ryan:

"What are beats or phrases?"

"The simplest way to think about beats or phrases is, any major change in emotion or attitude in a shot or sequence is a beat or a phrase. So say you have a character, he starts out happily walking down the street, he's minding his own business, someone from behind steals his wallet, he is shocked but his shock turns to anger as he runs after the Thief. This could be broken down into three phrases or beats - the guy happy, then shocked at being mugged and last angry."

As you can see, the beats can be used as an input to drive the blocking process, affecting pacing and motion of the character. You should be able to see these beats in the your blocking version. Once you are happy with your beats and blocking then you can fill in the subtleties, secondary animation and other details.


Justin Barrett provides a good example of how a scene is blocked out for CGI and then the lipsync and detail added later.

Adam Sale also has a more detailed scene blocking tutorial.

Acertijo3D blocking example on YouTube

Quotation provided by kind permission of Jason Ryan Animation, who provides Models and Tutorials for Maya.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Sci-fi-London - 30th April - 4th May

Sci-fi-London - The London International Festival of Science Fiction and Fantastic Film starts next wednesday with the Arthur C Clarke awards and follows with a full programme of films and events over the next 5 days.

Although you are likely to see animation in the form of effects throughout the programme here are the specific animated items.

Dragon Hunters
Anime all nighter

The Blink of an Eye shorts programme also contains many animated shorts:

Ascension, An Introduction To Lucid Dream Exploration, The Ambassador’s Brain, Contre La Montre, Fairy Tale, Final Journey, Marioneta and Simulcra

Full Programme for the festival

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Persepolis + 6 short animations

This sunday at the Curzon Soho Cinema, London at 6pm the showing of Persepolis will be joined by 6 other short animations thanks to colaboration with the London International Animation Festival (LIAF).

The additional Animated Shorts: Celebrating Persepolis are:

THE OLD, OLD, VERY OLD MAN Director: Elizabeth Hobbs, UK

SON OF SATAN Director: J J Villard, USA

AND LIFE WENT ON Director: Maryam Mohajer, UK

MY FIRST TASTE OF DEATH? Director: Laurie Hill, UK


NEVER LIKE THE FIRST TIME!? Director: Jonas Odell, Sweden

The London Animation Festival will be shown in Steptember with a more comprehensive programme.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Head full of gears

Corpse Brides Mike Johnson on G4

I just learned this week that the Corpse Bride used a rather novel solution to animation of the puppets faces. The puppets heads were full of watch gears and by sticking an allen key into the top of the head and giving it a tweak the face could be made to move. The gears move paddles that in turn push or prod the latex skin.

The eyebrows are attached to paddles and that are movable externally and the eyeslids use a replacement technique. The rest of the armatures are quite conventional ball sockets and hinges with metal rods made from stainless steel.

You can watch Mike Johnson demonstrating the Corpse Bride Puppets, on G4 TV's "Attack of the Show".

All of the armatures were made by Mackinnon And Saunders from Altrincham in Cheshire.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Persepolis coming to the UK

Persepolis by Iranian artist Marjane Satrapi will be released in UK cinemas next week, it's politics (story) has caused it to be banned in a few places (then curiously unbanned). The style of the animation looks great and it has some interesting characters. The decision to make it mostly in black and white was good as it provides both a simple and bold look as well as fulfilling the desire to have it true to the graphic novel of the same name.

The native language of this film is French but there will be an English dubbed version, this has caused some grumblings about subtitles in the film world where purists would prefer to have the titles and not the dub.

For those interested in other Iranian animation you can visit the Teran AnimaFest.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Stop Motion Armatures Survey

A quick survey for all those people who are animating with armature based stop motion puppets. Please feel free to respond as comments or email me at andy at aceanim dot com.

  1. What do you like about the armatures you currently work with?
  2. Do you outsource your armature making, machine your own armatures or build from kits?
  3. What is the typical lifetime of an armature before it needs replacing/scrapping?
  4. What scale do you use?
  5. Is rust a problem, do the covering materials corrode the metal?
  6. Which bits break most often?
  7. What does not work (joints, materials, shapes)?
  8. Which process takes the longest; designing your armature, machining the armature, covering/dressing the puppet.

The reason for the survey is to help me (and the animation ramblings) readers to make better armatures. Although primarily targeted at stop motion animators, I'd also be interested to hear what maquette makers and other model makers are upto in this area.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

French CG Music Video in style of Stop Motion

I'm trying to achieve a puppet like quality in the flea film but using CGI.

French director Stéphane Berla manages this very well in the music video Tais Toi Mon Coeur (Shut up, My Heart) but also takes advantage of the computer world to add some effects such as smoke and sequences such as the cogs below which could have been very difficult due to the physicality of working in stop motion.

Watch the film

Friday, April 04, 2008

Crazy thought for the day

Stop Motion Animation in a bottle...

Thinking that could have a short animation of a man in a bottle tapping on the glass and then sitting down giving up.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Video Codecs

Normally when I can't play a particular video, I just give up and don't watch it. However I found a little windows utility that might be of use to help diagnose issues.

On a related note, one of my pet peeves is the need to use a different video player for different video files. Surely that's why we have codecs... This problem is made worse by these players installing lots of other functionality along with them, Real and QuickTime (installs Itunes) are particularly bad. I've looked into QuickTime Alternative and QT Lite but so far not had too much luck with them...

Test file:

Stop Press: I've checked Apple's Quicktime site again and it does seem that it's now possible to download QT without ITunes. We'll have to see if it's decided to install any bonus items for "my benifit"...

Friday, March 28, 2008

Opposing Action

Dave Burgess has done an ECritique for the 11 Second club and provides some interesting insight into the good and not so good bits of Philip Hall's short clip.

One of the ideas I picked up as having use for the flea circus film is that of "Opposing Motion". Loosely based on Newton's 3rd law (To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction) the idea here is that actions look more natural and are clearer if there is an opposing motion to complement them. For example as the character raises their head they also lower their hand. The Flea Circus RingMaster makes these kind of movements with his magnifying glass and tweezers. This is not the same as overlapping action which would be something like hair or floppy ears following a head movement by a few frames and follow through which would be those items keeping moving once the head had stopped.

Dave also has some good points to make about arcs and follow through so I recomend watching the whole of his critique.

Stopmotion Book

There's a new book out by stop motion animation expert Barry Purves. Stop Motion: Passion, Process and Performance is a great book and if you want to know more about it then you will need to read next month's Imagine Magazine who will be hopefully including my review.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Birds Eye View Events

There's some good events this weekend for animators as part of the Birds Eye View festival that started yesterday.

On Sunday there's a programme of short films and animation, with the UK Premieres of Sally Arthur's A-Z and Lucy Izzard's One of the Family.

A-Z is a blend of Ink on paper and 3D and 2D CGI and Flash, it tells the story of Phyllis Pearsall tackling the monumental task of writing the A-Z. Sally Arthur studied at the RCA and now works for ArthurCox in Bristol.

After winning the New Animator award in 2005 with her film Tea Total, Lucy Izzard was commissioned by BBC Three to make a series of short animations. One of the Family is one of these films and is a humourous look at how pets are treated. This film was also also show as part of the British Animation Awards this year.

Also to be shown is the DepicT! award winning Flighty by Leigh Hodgkinson is a collage style animation previously seen at the Encounters Short Film Festival Bristol.
Also on Sunday is a seminar on Writing for computer games and tomorrow is a seminar on multiplatform films.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Carrara 6.1

It kind of snuck up on me but Daz have brought out a upgrade to Carrara. The main enhancements are for hair, reduced memory requirements for vertex models, some enhancements to displacement mapping and a there's a long list of bug fixes too.

The hair enhancements have new tools for straightening, curling and clumping the hair, there is more control over overlaps and collision detection, symmetry and grouping

The 6.1 version is available to those people who already have 6.0. It's currently a full uninstall / reinstall but there are rumours of a patch version with a smaller download size. You can access it by resetting your download counters in your account.

In related news, Digital Carvers Guild has an enhancement to Anything Goos that allow you to smooth between shading domains.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Movieum

Opening in County Hall, London on Feb 22nd is the Movieum. A potential replacement for the sadly demised Momi. This new Film Museum takes many of the ideas from Momi and other Movie Museums and brings them bang upto date with Animatronics, Sets, Models and a unique look at the British Film industry.

For the animator there should be plenty to see, there promises to be a section of British Animation including origional artwork, limited editions, Beatrix Potter, Dangermouse, Bagpuss, Mr Benn and Peppa Pig. Chapman Entertainment provide details of how they use Stop Motion Animation to produce Fifi and the Flowertots.

The museum has been produced by the same people who put together the Starwars Exhibition last year in Country Hall, Wierd and Wonderful

Monday, February 11, 2008

Animation Bafta Winners 2008

The Bafta winner of the Best Animated Film was as predicted, Ratatouille. I'm glad but not surprised that this film was recognised for it's brilliance. The Golden Compass beat it to the post for Visual Effects.

Aardman's "The Pearce Sisters" recieved Best Short Animation award, I'm not sure that I could have predicted that one as Crumble Giant was also excellent. I thought Osbert Parker's Head over Heels was disapointing but I suspected he had some good contacts in the industry to lobby for him. So overall I would not have been able to choose between the three but again I'm glad Aardman was recognised for its new animation techniques used in this film.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Making of Nightmare before Christmas

Although Tim Burton has been on the TV a lot for his Sweeny Todd claiming that it's his first musical, I'll always think of his classic stop motion animation Nightmare before Christmas as being his first.

I've recently discovered that there is a 3 part series of the making of available on

Part 1 Introduction by Tim Burton, Script, Music, Characters, Storyboards, Design
Part 2 Set Making, Lighting, Motion Control, Model Making, Acting / Animating
Part 3 Facial animation by head replacement, Lipsync, Special Effects, Compositing

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Oscars 2008 for Animation

Following my note on the Bafta's here's the same for the Oscars.

Best animated feature film
Surf's Up

Ratatouille has got some stiff competition here going up against the serious Persepolis (shown at the London Film Festival this year) and the light weight documentary stylings of Surf's Up.

Best animated short film
I Met the Walrus
Madame Tutli-Putli
Meme Les Pigeons Vont au Paradis (Even Pigeons Go to Heaven)
My Love (Moya Lyubov)
Peter & the Wolf

I'm afraid to say that I don't know much about these films other than Peter and the Wolf, an excellent stop motion film from with Prokofiev's music. The film was shown on UK TV last month and has been popular in the UK animation festivals. For there rest there are some details of these on the Oscars site until I've had time to find out more.

Ratatouille is also in the running for five more awards; Origional Screenplay, Music Score, Writing, Sound Editing and Sound Mixing.

Update: 24/1/2008
Thanks to Darkmatters, I've discovered that you can watch the Oscar Nominated Short Animated films online.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Baftas for Animation

The list of Bafta nominees for 2008 is now up, the animated films are:

SHREK THE THIRD – Chris Miller
THE SIMPSONS MOVIE – Matt Groening/James L Brooks

Although the Simpson's Movie is very funny I don't think it should win given that it's not outstanding animation just mediocre. Shrek the Third does not really deserve to be listed as it lacked plot, the animation although technically better was less in detail and I thought the lead characters looked more human than ogre. Of course I think Ratatouille should win for the reason's I've outlined in my blog.

The Pearce Sisters is from Aardman and has already won some awards and was shown at last years LIAF. It's production is something quite new for Aardman in that it's combined 3D and 2D.

HEAD OVER HEELS – Osbert Parker/Fiona Pitkin/Ian Gouldstone
Osbert's piece is mixed media with found film clips animated over stop motion.

THE CRUMBLEGIANT – Pearse Moore/John McCloskey (clip)
This was funded as part of Frameworks scheme from Bord Scannán na hÉireann/the Irish Film Board and premiered at the Galway Film Fleadh in 2007.

Ratatouille and Beowulf also were short listed for the visual effects category but did not make it to the nominations stage.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Cat Came Back

The Cat Came Back by Director Cordell Barker from 1988 is one of my favourite short animations, its was made by hand with the drawings scanned into a computer. It's already possible to buy this on VHS and DVD but now the National Film Board of Canada has kindly posted it up on the web.