Sunday, 9 December 2012

ALL the line tests

I haven't been updating as regularly as i should have been, so, here's a back log of line tests.

Semester 1 Summary: Acting and Movement

I began my acting research by watching films with characters that inspired Nina's persona. (There's plenty of this in illegible notes, in my sketchbook, so i'm not going to bother typing everything up...) Here's the run down:

  • Moulin Rouge:

Satine- Nicole Kidman
*spoilers* Satine finds out she's dying and then proceeds to... die.
 But i found it interesting to observe her movement fluctuating between defiance and exhaustion  very dramatically and theatrically, much in the way i am hoping to achieve for Nina.

 I developed the amount of facial expression i hope to achieve for Nina by remembering that Satine smiles at her lover before she dies, so now, Nina shows much more recognition than first anticipated.

Also, Tango de la Roxanne is pretty darn close to the kind of movement want to emphasise in Dancing Nina, and was actually a very early influence for me and Jo.

upon reviewing it i made changes to the choreography: such as having Death grab Nina by the wrists more to indicate his personality flip-side.

Personality flip side?? I hear you cry!
I'll get to it, hang tight. (see what i did there?...)

  • I also watched Chicago to look at the dances of innocent Hungarian lady what gets hung *spoilers*. I've always loved the choreography of her Cell Block Tango routine, there's so much good staging, silhouetting and mirroring in it between her and her partner, 

and although it remains a tango, it has a classic twist. The way the woman acts is so theatrical, in keeping with the film's creative thrust. Especially when she is executed and her dying scene is transformed into a glamorous disappearing act: 

  • "Pina" was also very influential to us from an early stage, and i recently  re watched it when thinking more in depth about my characters. There are a couple of pieces that stand out to me, particularly this one: 

The way the woman moves around as if she is in a dream and relies on her partner to catch her constantly but without ever acknowledging him is something similar to the way i want to characters to interact in Dancing Nina. Except a little reversed...

  • I've been reading up on Acting

"Acting for Animators" Ed Hooks

I read about objectives and conclusions and thinking as well as doing in acting. Which was helpful at this stage of refreshing my understanding of the characters i already knew so well.
"Unity of action"= "doing something 100% of the time" -Aristotle
^This helped me work out some creases in the choreography. Re-establishing what exactly my characters wanted and why made me add certain bits that hadn't existed previously, such as when Nina reaches up to touch Death's face as if trying to establish a connection only to be harshly rejected.

In Dancing Nina I'm aiming for Death to be the dream state character. He is entirely Nina's subconscious creation, and so, as well as being a vague memory of her lover he is an embodiment of her pain as her body dies.He constantly fluctuates between sympathy and cruelty for the duration of the (metaphorical) dance eventually truly embodying the lover Nina longs to be with in the final scene.

As for Nina, there's a small essay explaining her motivation in my jotter/sketchbook and it's 5am so, shhh.

  • I took Dancing lessons! 
I don't know if i've mentioned this before, but i used to dance regularly. It occurred to me that since i was a ballet dancer and never really performed, i had never danced with a partner, so i took up Swing dance at the Swing Dance society at Dundee to gain a better understanding of how people are meant to move as a pair. It turned out to be very helpful with hand gesture in particular; i found i could suddenly refer to my own learning  when it came to what position hands should be in.

  • It was suggested that i should hire drama students to act out my piece with a good understanding of the characters, which, strangely enough had not occurred to me since i have so much dance research and reference to work from. Anyway, i skipped the middle man and acted out the beginning (the part i am currently animating) myself. My partner was Joe who has acted before, and was ... available. I took time to explain Death's character to him before filming.

Semester 1 Summary: Modelling Nina

It's Chriiiistmas! And I'm just sticking up a round up of everything i've accomplished this Semester. This model happened way back in Summer, and as you all know is no longer being used for anything so she remains naked and at a fairly rough stage (ears and hair are undefined and inner mouth is missing) but still I'd like to show her off because she's been a big influence on my current 2D Nina, and i refer back to her constantly when i'm animating.

These were her original reference images

 While modelling her i referred back to Giacometti's sculptures. His work was a major influence at our design stage as well. If i were to try out sculpting this model in Zbrush in the future I'd be going for this hand made, rough, clay-like texture.
  I made my own plasticine models inspired by these sculptures and uploaded a texture library last semester, which was a hint to the way Nina's dress would have moved had we ever made the film in 3D. The fact that Nina's legs will now be connected by a maxi-length dress in my animation is down to Giacometti's influence as well:

I also used and continue to use knowledge gained from lifedrawing and and observational drawing when modelling.
 A full view of very tall Nina, with a clean Outliner.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Bend and Snap!

My latest test: cleaned up keys with added keys, anticipation and edited timing. I'm really bad for regular testing, so when i do finally force myself to a line tester all the final cuts and trims are made there by eye.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

New Line Test

Since the last test: Cleaner keys, rough charting,anticipation, improved timing.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Saturday, 3 November 2012

New impossible schedule! yayy

Look on in horror. I will be. Good thing this 10% deal isn't mandatory any more!

Boring update on 10%

I thought I ought to let everyone know who cares; I've started roughing out keys and testing my chosen 10% segment.
Although there is a test... it was rushed (uni was closing and janitors were kicking me out) and the line tester I picked was very keen on it's contrast (you can't see shit). So, I'll upload exciting moving pictures as soon as something good happens, promise.
The 10% I've chosen is as follows (it's not exact but this is the "section"). At the moment it stands at about 14 seconds long, which is more than double the length it needs to be to constitute 10%, and it's even longer then the same section in my animatic due to my ad lib timing:

I'm calling it Scene_02, but tbh, it might be Scene_02,03, and 04. Who knows?! i'll decide later, Peace out.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

All the Character Sheets you could dream of!

Nina: Clean turnaround, heads and expressions (Note: Nina and Death won't appear in the final film as clean as they are shown in their turnarounds, cleaning them up for the purpose of turnarounds means a tighter adhesion to proportions and style for additional animators and inbetweeners)
Nina: construction using ovals
Death: Clean turnaround and heads (note; I didn't draw a set of expressions for him as i imagine him having a mostly blank expression)

 Death: Construction using ovals and rectangles, front and side

 Height comparison, front and side. Nina is roughly a head shorter than Death

Drawing aid sheets for additional animators/ inbetweeners
The next step is desiding on my "10% for Christmas" portion and doping/ keying it out. I'm already behind schedule but catching up, these took far longer than expected! Please comment :)

Monday, 1 October 2012


Nina stands centre stage, head down, her arms are crossed over her body, grasping her neck. The background is blank.
She stretches upwards with her elbows and lets her hands run sensually over her face as she brings them down the centre of her body, lazily.

When her arms reach her side a hand materializes at her right hand and brings it up above her head, her other arm follows.
She crosses her left leg behind her right and spins lazily to her left while a more definite male form appears, from the hand holding hers, behind her, and directs her action. She stops, facing stage right.

Fully formed man standing behind Nina and lets her arms fall slowly.He brings his right arm around her neck. While supporting the small of her back with his left hand he pulls her into a backwards lean very slowly and pauses. Nina’s arms hang limply.

Suddenly he pushes her upright and forward towards stage right.
The man de-materializes after pushing Nina away from him, almost instantaneously he re- materializes at stage right in time to catch her before she falls forwards. 
Note: whenever the male disappears or re-appears he has the appearance of transforming into a cloth and either crumpling to the ground before disappearing entirely or twisting up from the floor before transforming into a human form.

The man takes Nina’s hand and begins to spin her around him as they travel towards stage left. He stops her from spinning, face to face with him.

She lets her arm fall to one side of him and her body follows, fatigued. The man supports her and swiftly steps behind her and picks her up from the waist. 
Note: He does not lose contact with her waist as he steps around her.

Continuing the direction of his spin around her, he spins while holding Nina by her waist.

After 1x 360 spin, the man puts Nina down on her feet facing the audience. She tries, hastily, to break away from his grasp, shoving herself away from him.

When he tries to catch her waist again, she spins on tip toes in a tight circle around him while he chases her around.

The man manages to grab her hand and she tugs away, pushing back with her legs (her back to stage left).

He pulls her back and Nina crumples into his body before making one last attempt at tugging away in the opposite direction (stage right).

Nina breaks the man’s hold on her hand and he de-materializes as she spins away on her own travelling towards stage right.

Nina crumples to the ground, exhausted (facing stage right). 

There is a pause as she sits on the ground, her hair now loose, head bent forward, breathing.

A hand takes Nina by the chin and tilts her whole head upwards slowly. She stands up in order to follow it. Meanwhile, the man materializes starting from the hand and appears, fully formed standing in front of Nina when she is upright.

The man puts his arms around Nina’s waist (her arms are over his, hanging limply) and lifts her off the ground. Nina hangs in his arms limply.

The man spins slowly, roughly on the spot, still holding Nina.

The man begins to de-materialize in an upward direction (as cloth being pulled up past Nina’s neck)

Nina also begins to de- materialize from the bottom, upwards.

Nina hangs for a moment before transforming completely into a hanging sheet.

The sheet hangs for a moment suspended by an unseen force.

The sheet falls and crumples to the floor.

So, on paper the script is 2 pages long, which means by rights the film ought to be 2 minutes long- but we all know now that the choreography can fit into roughly a minute. I probably haven't written the script properly, it just occurred to me suddenly that we didn't have an updated one for the project under new direction. Perhaps I've been to descriptive and that's why it has ended up this long. At least this has helped me begin to split up the different natural sections to animate.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Reference footage from The Space

Today we filmed at The Space @ Dundee College Kingsway Campus. Here's a pick of the best footage we collected, first of all: the choreography both in costume and out. Dancers: Miranda Sheehy, Jessica Catrin Engberg and a boy who's name I haven't got yet :P


And these are some of the cloth tests we made; both interacting with someone and simply being dropped:

Productive day i think, the plan now is to make solid character sheets/ turnarounds, recruit animators, and divide a chosen 10% chunk between us all to work on for our Christmas deadline. the camera man/ driver was Scott Sutherland and the photographer/ general tech. hand was Rob O'Hara. I'm the one throwing cloth. For hilarious out-takes visit:

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Slightly New Schedule

After our meeting with Andy Eracleous yesterday I've added a few things to our schedule and taken away the modelling and sculpting I had scheduled for myself, as now I'm working on Jamie Buchanan's film "Stupid kow" which makes up the other half of my 3D modelling specialism. Bob and Scott have volunteered to help me film our reference footage at the Space tomorrow, I'm still to fully recruit additional inbetweeners/ clean up artists, which will be done the old fashioned way: sign up sheet in the studio.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

New Storyboard and Animatic!

Finally! The new storyboard according to the shorter choreography has been drawn up, complete with new style decisions made in a meeting yesterday with Tricia Anderson. Tricia had the wonderful idea of having our characters not only move like pieces of cloth but also have them disappear and appear by morphing from and into cloth, when necessary. Freya and I thought it was a much more elegant and artistic way of hanging Nina at the end, let us know what you think.
Obviously we haven't yet asked Finn Anderson to tweak his music to our new timing, we should be filming with the dancers at the end of this week and i also plan to get some cloth tests filmed; So hopefully by Monday-ish i'll be more sure of the timing and will feel confident sending a more accurate animatic away to him.

Comments welcome!