Monday, 3 December 2012

The Snowman and the Snowdog Trailer

It's nearly here everyone, the long awaited sequel to Raymond Briggs' "The Snowman" from 30 years ago! The Snowman and the Snowdog is a brand new film from Channel 4 and Lupus Films in London that I have had the incredible privilege and pleasure to work on this year... one of the many reasons I have been so busy since Uni!

The film is set thirty years on from the original and features a new boy, the same old Snowman rebuilt again and a new Snowdog! Some have frowned upon a sequel to the original who feel like this is just a 'remake', but it is a totally new adventure and is a real treasure to watch as it respectfully celebrates the original while also updating the beloved story. 

I was invited to join the crew in London as a 'line tester' so I was testing the original hand drawn animation under a camera (everything was drawn properly on paper like the original, not with a  computer!) to show the animators and Director how the scenes would look before they are scanned. I did this for a couple of months before joining the rendering department where I hand coloured scenes in pencil for the final film! It was an incredible experience and I loved every minute.

So without further ado, here is the finished trailer for the film, which will have its full broadcast premiere on Channel 4 this Christmas! Don't miss it!

P.S. I haven't forgotten to update you all on Acorns! I've currently submitted it to several festivals for next year so I will update if it gets selected for anything!

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Acorns Official Trailer

At last, here it is! I finally found some time this afternoon to edit a trailer for my graduation film, Acorns. It's a short 30 second mash-up that hopefully establishes the story enough to keep you interested! Enjoy!

It was difficult to edit to say the least as I needed to keep it very short but also cohesive. Other short film trailers just have an excerpt from the very beginning of the film, but I felt that didn't work here so I had to experiment with different shots and kept cutting lots out until it worked (which hopefully it does!). Expect the full film to make its' online debut sometime next year! :)

Comments and feedback welcome as always!

Monday, 18 June 2012

Newport Animation Grad and Award Show

Last Wednesday, 13th June, was our graduation show at Newport City Campus. We had a wonderful exhibit on the ground floor showcasing our stills, props and business cards and a talk with previous Newport graduates, Nick Rodgers from Frontier Games and Hannah Ferguson from Lupus Studios which was informative and very valuable for industry contacts!

My Acorns exhibit with character cut-out by Sinead Oram!

This was followed by a screening of the shortlisted films as well as a few MA films and the award ceremony and drinks/networking afterwards.

The screening was excellent and really showcased our work in best quality and sound, our technician, Stan Evans, did a fantastic job!

The awards were given out afterwards: a beautiful framed illustration by Martha Ford from Aardman in Bristol. Each category had three nominees and then one winner.

My friend Bryony Evans won Best Sound for her film, Odonata, Jessica Kate Leslau received Best Art Direction for Babbit (Acorns was also nominated for this) and Jon Saunders got Best Script for Thought Cloud.

CGI masters, Sinead Oram and Pablo Parry won Best Technical Achievement which was highly deserved for their amazing film, The Lighthouse Men and Mahmoud Hindawi also got an award for his MA film, The Street Artist.

Acorns was then winner of Best Animation, but as I went to receive the award, Leonie Sharrock (our tutor and award announcer) told me to wait and I stood completely stunned as she then declared that I was also winner of Best Overall Film!

Me and Acorns' award after the ceremony

I was totally humbled and grateful for the privilege and spent the rest of the evening trying to calm my nerves!

The films this year have been excellent, and really show that Newport animation is certainly a storytelling force to be reckoned with. I'm over the moon with how well Acorns has done so far and cannot wait to see what unfolds at festivals this year. I'll be putting my all in with promoting the film and expanding the universe with a picture book and graphic novel so stay tuned!

Thanks to everyone for their support in making my film possible. :)

Annecy Animation Festival 2012

This year myself, 3 friends and my fiancé travelled to Annecy in France for their annual animation festival, which was fantastic! I cannot recommend it more to animation lovers and animators pursuing a career in animation!

From pouring rain to sweltering hot! It was like we never left Wales!

As poor students, we were only camping there, which meant we managed to get soaked and sunburnt in the same week (or day, even!) thanks to highly sporadic weather, but the place is beautiful and the work was fantastic.

Arrugas (Wrinkles)
Particular works of mention were the features; Arrugas (Wrinkles) a hauntingly touching film about growing old with Alzheimer's, Approved for Adoption about a Korean boy adopted into a Belgian family and the difficulties with fitting in, Zarafa a 2D film about an African boy traveling across Europe to save a baby giraffe and A Letter to Momo which is Production I.G.'s most recent feature about a girl and her mother learning to cope with the loss of their father and husband respectively (with added supernatural demons).

Hi-no-youjin (Combustible)
The shorts; Tram, a hilarious film about female sexual frustration, The People Who Never Stop a lovely film about the effects of the Japanese disaster last year, Le Jardin Enchanté a cute musical about a down-to-earth hippy and a tech-savvy guy who don't get along, Chinti, a sweet mixed-medium film about an ant who wants to visit the Taj Mahal, Father about a handful of children in different mediums who share their experiences with their fathers, Pythagasaurus a funny CG Aardman film about cavemen and their encounter with maths, Hi-no-youjin (Combustible) a beautifully detailed and ornate story about a brother and sister who are forced into social roles, Paso Doble a wonderfully animated sequence between a dancer and a bull and The Making of Longbird, a British 'making of' film documenting the restoration and remake of an old animation that turns into hilarious banter between a paper cut-out longbird with a Russian accent and it's creator... just to name a few!!

There were of course more films that we didn't even get to see and then countless CalArts and Irish screenings showing fantastic films throughout the years. It was a fantastic event. The only downsides, were, as students, the exclusivity of some of the events. The Making of Brave, Wreck-it-Ralph and the premiere of Paperman were either invite-only or so limited to seating that you had to be at the front of the queue to even get in. For the Making of Brave, we stood in a queue for 2 hours only to discover that there were only 30 tickets available for students, 22 of which were already reserved so at least 100 people were queueing for only 8 tickets!

The DIsney Booth!
Fortunately our day at the Disney booth at the Mifa building completely made up for our disappointments. We spent the whole day speaking with real Disney animators, concept artists, story artists and talent seekers. Their talks were fantastic and we got amazing one-on-one sessions with them afterwards to look at our portfolios. Unfortuantely I didn't have much to show but it was still an unmissable event and I'll never forget it! I'm going to try submitting my portfolio too so you never know!

A life drawing of me and my fiancé that filmmaker Jake Nelson did at the same time that I was drawing him! I clearly wasn't being as secretive as I thought
The whole experience was amazing, the food was great, the gorgeous book shops, the atmosphere and place, the films and the people! You never know who you might bump into: we shared a taxi to Annecy with the lovely Shelley Page from Dreamworks without realising it (unbelievable!) and Peter Lord from Aardman was on our flight back to Bristol--three seats in front of me!

Me and Pascal Campion!
My friend Bryony and I also bought art books by the incredible Pascal Campion who was doing a book signing at the festival. He did marvelous pen and ink drawings in our books and was such a lovely and charming guy to talk to. Hope I get to meet him again one day!

My Annecy swag!
Pascal's drawing of his family at a Caribbean beach!
Pascal's drawing of his family at a Caribbean beach!
My friends and I hope to go again next year, cannot wait! :D ... As long as we don't have to camp again, ha ha!

Saturday, 2 June 2012

"Acorns" is now Complete!

I am very happy to announce that my graduation film, "Acorns" is at last finished and handed-in as of Thursday 30th May 2012!

Although our course deadline was originally the 14th May, we were given an extra week to finish our then very incomplete films and the top 11 shortlisted films had a little longer too just to get them polished (or in my case coloured and composited!). My film is also one of the shortlisted films at Newport and I must say they are an excellent year, and congratulations are in order for everyone's hard work as well as those who unfortunately did not make it on the shortlist, they are all brilliant films and well worth the time and effort that clearly went into making them. :)

It's certainly odd to think that it's all over now and I have officially finished my three years worth of University, but it's been a wonderful experience and I hope to end it with some happy memories with my friends and colleagues at our grad show later this month.

Sadly I will be unable to upload my film in its entirety for some time as I think it deserves a good festival run in the coming year, however I have a brief clip of it online in this compilation reel of our shortlisted films that myself and my fiancé edited yesterday. Please enjoy!

For more films and grad show info, you can check out our blog here:

I will also have lots of production goodies to show in the next few weeks in the run up to our graduation show on the 13th June and beyond and will be editing a short trailer for my film on its own, this won't be for another week though as I am off to the Annecy animation festival tomorrow for the whole week so won't be able to make any posts for a while or promote my film just yet! When I am back, I will have some well-deserved rest and be back on the case with promoting my film!

In the meantime, here are a few funny "alternate" colourings of the tree Spirit that my younger sister Eleanor did while helping on my film. :)

And with that, I am off to finish packing! See you all in a week! :)

Monday, 14 May 2012

Acorns Film Stills

A selection of stills from my film, these are all composited shots as they appear in the final piece! I'll be keeping off 'spoiler' frames for now, but so far these look quite nice together and it's exciting to see it come together at last!

Final Deadline

My last University deadline is finally here, though it doesn't quite feel real, partly because I'm not submitting a finished film! I'll still be working on over the next two weeks, in-betweening, cleaning-up, colouring and compositing. With some extra hard work, I think it will be done in time for our grad show, though it's quite scary to be handing-in unfinished work in the meantime!

Here are some more pictures!

This is a little model my youngest sister did of my tree Spirit, isn't it cute? When we have time she is going to bake it and I will paint it.

Thought I would take a picture of my home workstation, though I almost always work at the Uni studio now. This is during a tidy day.

Here I've featured my new collection of acorn necklaces and a couple of real very old acorns too! I like to surround myself with references and inspiration, even if it does come off as cluttered.

And this is The Box. It's full of finished animation frames, so much so that it can't be closed anymore. I haven't added up the frame numbers yet, but when I do I'm sure it will be pretty shocking!

In the morning I'm handing a whole bunch of stuff in, including some final stills from my film, so I'll be uploading those very soon! Until then, goodnight!

Sample Business Cards

Just wanted to post up some sample business cards I got over Easter from where I tried out some new artwork. I think I prefer the one with the tree for the back of the card, as it looks more professional. Though I wonder if the front of it looks like I'm a children's book illustrator rather than an animator. I'll have to try some new designs soon!

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Acorns Production

It's been a while since I've had time to update my production blog here, I've been animating solidly for the past two months, including over Easter break and it's all starting to come to a close. Monday 23rd April was our rough cut critique which went really well for everyone. We all got good feedback and there were no real drastic situations where work was scrapped although some got suggestions for minor changes.

My rough cut was a mixture of finished composited shots, line tests and still quite a few pieces of animatic, though there wasn't time to add some of my work, so it wasn't an accurate portrayal of my progress. Nonetheless my fellow students and tutors seemed very pleased with my progress and although my film will not be completely coloured and composited by the deadline (14th May!!), it will definitely be animated which is fine, as long as it is complete for our grad show and festival submissions! It's all very exciting!

Here is my shot list as of today. The turquoise pen marks everything that is completed through various stages. The first three columns are the most important right now as that entails all of the drawing which is nearly done now.

Clearly there is still much to do overall, but I am confident that the animation aspect will be at the very least, completely keyed out by the deadline. I am getting a tighter edit together for this Tuesday (8th) so that my composer can get a timed soundtrack together as my animation has lengthened the runtime of my film again! What I was hoping to keep under four minutes is now four and a half minutes, but it called for longer pauses here and there so it is for the best. After that it will be a week of colouring and compositing, the May Ball and then Joanna Quinn's Masterclass!

The composited shots so far are looking great and I cannot wait to get some previews up and some stills when I get the time, for now, I'm motoring on with the animation in time for our last Uni deadline! There's a whole lot more I'd like to talk about but I will have to update with it another time... but for now, everything is going smoothly and in other news I got engaged to my boyfriend of four years a few weeks ago so there's lots going on but too much to do!

I will end this post with the first still from my film. :)

I'll be updating again soon with lots of cool things and hopefully more pictures!
Bye for now! :)

Sunday, 25 March 2012

"Acorns" Skipping Shot Progression

For the past month I have been getting production on my film well under way. At the moment I have animated a quarter of the film and those shots are currently going through the various stages of clean-up/colour/compositing. Needless to say I will be very busy getting it all done!

As I haven't had the time to put together the line tests of my animation yet, (and also unsure exactly how much finished animation I should be putting up online) I decided to edit a special video to show the shot progression of a short scene. This is Amber and the Spirit skipping together in my montage sequence. The final example shows the shot as it will appear in the film.

It is also available here on Youtube:

The music is by Benjamin Rusch who I will be working with again in a month or two to re-record the final soundtrack.

I am extremely excited with how the film is turning out so far, it's just a case of getting it finished on time! At the moment I have a few animation students from other years helping me out, two clean-up and colouring artists, one colourist, and two in-betweeners. Hopefully I will get more assistance after Easter as first and second years have less work to do in order to help third years. It's more than most people get but this film's production is huge!!

Now that my dissertation is finished and handed-in (that took place on the 15th last week) I have turned my full attention onto the film and aim to have as much animation done as possible for our rough hand-in on the 23rd April.

That's all from me for now, I'll update occasionally with animation and promotional materials, but otherwise it's full steam ahead!

All the best,

Friday, 2 March 2012

Assistance Poster

A quick 'help wanted' poster I made for my film to put up in the studio today. Although I had some interest at first, my helpers are dwindling in numbers so I'm looking for more animators willing to do some animating/colouring as the deadline is drawing ever closer and I have a dissertation to write!

Thursday, 9 February 2012

More Colour Palettes

Final Colour Sheets for Amber and the Spirit in Winter, Spring and Summer. The last sheet will be Amber at night time and a couple of other lighting conditions and prop colouring. These also represent final character designs.

The Spirit changes colour throughout seasons as well as Amber's clothes, my idea was to give Amber pastel-like primary colours and the Spirit secondary colours as well as appropriate colours for the scene/seasons, so Autumn is warm and orange (but red when danger is near), Winter is cool, clean and blue, Spring is fresh greens filled with colourful flowers and Summer is hot and rich in greens, blues and yellows.

It's important as well for these colours to complement the backgrounds as well as each other, so I will have some colour/mood sheets for those too.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Autumn Colour Palette

Well there's no more denying it, production has officially begun on Acorns! I already have some interest from 2nd years and MA students at Newport willing to help with colouring and effects, so I'm getting everything organised so they can get started as well as animating new shots to be cleaned and coloured.

For this I have completed a colour sheet for the three Autumn scenes to make the production process easier when enlisting the help of digital colourists! I included the # number of the colours as well so that it will stay consistent.

Should have more of these (and eventually some pencil tests too) very soon!

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Shot Breakdown

This is a shot breakdown I made in Excel on Thursday. I started by listing all of my shots in a separate file, describing them and then going through my animatic to see how long each shot was in seconds (but not the added detail of frames to give flexibility when animating) how difficult it would be to achieve in terms of levels, special effects and number of characters and any camera details etc.

I transferred this information into Excel, colour coding the difficulty of shots (red for hard, orange for medium, green for easy and blue for a still shot) and the shots themselves are colour coded for the seasons (yellow for Autumn, blue for Winter, pink for Spring, green for Summer, dark purple for Night/Storm and lilac for the storm's aftermath which is approximately Autumn).

I have a printed version of it by my desk so I can check off all of the Rough Animation, Final Animation, Scanning, Clean-Up, Alpha, Colouring and Compositing as I go. According to my schedule, tomorrow begins my rough animation and backgrounds, though Dissertation will have to be postponed until my feedback on it at the end of the month. I'll be tackling 2 difficult shots and approx. 4 medium shots during the week. I will note down my progress to estimate how long it takes me and when I will have everything done by.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Final Animatic, Tests and Part 2 Presentation

After Christmas and the New Year, the second part of our hand-in was not far ahead! The brief was to make a final animatic with better realisation of the final timing and look of the film as well as 30 seconds of animation tests and an example of a cleaned-up and coloured shot against a background to show what the finished film will look like and test its' feasibility and the time it takes you.

This is my result and what I handed-in and presented Monday morning.

For the past week, I have been constructing my animatic again from scratch, completely redrawing all of my shots and changing angles and adding pans to make it more dynamic and interesting. I added colour to it as well to give an idea of the final look and to better show the changes in seasons and clothes. I spread these drawings across several PSD's in Photoshop using a border to show where the margins of the 1980x1080 widescreen frame would be. It was difficult to export these though, the first I exported each layer as an individual PNG with a transparent background so that was separate layers for the character line and colour and another for the background and any foreground element. I used a script to do this automatically but there were issues with the time this took and I had to resave images for pans because the edges were cropped off. The next PSD's I imported directly into Premiere as individual layers which did not take as long so I continued this method but had to split my PSDs into smaller files as there were too many layers to import all at once.

The biggest change for this animatic is probably the ending, where the Spirit is 'reborn' from the planting of the acorn, rather than coming back to instruct Amber, so it is very much her own decision. I spoke to James Manning just before my animatic was edited together, going through my PSD drawings. I originally had a sequence where Amber kept her acorn necklace and planted them all with the first, but this distracted from the importance of her decision to plant the last acorn, so I changed the drawing before I exported them.

The colours I chose were selected from my watercolour studies earlier and from my pre-visualisation tests. I intend to collate them together into a comprehension colour guide and also a colour script by taking key story points and using watercolour to express it with vibrancy.

Most of all however, is that I now have a rough soundtrack for my film which is an original piece by my composer Benjamin Rusch. He has been excellent to work with and really pulled out all the stops to get a recording done for my deadline. We'll be working together in the coming months to finalise this sound and to make it as flexible for editing as possible. There are a couple of points that may change but otherwise I love the melody and it's definitely the right sound.

More of his work is available here:

The presentation on Monday went really well, I was actually quite scared that I would be faced with changing everything after spending a solid week getting it together. Fortunately the feedback was very positive and I was happy to hear that my fellow students and tutors preferred my new version.

The main points to change was for the Spirit to become more angry when Amber breaks the tree and for the storm to roll in at this moment rather than later. There was also a discussion about my ending, some almost wanted the Spirit to die at the end rather than see it reborn, but speaking to my friends, they all prefer the idea of showing the oak leaves springing up from the ground and then ending the film on Amber's reaction, quite similar to the ending of Monsters, Inc. (2001), when Sulley reacts to seeing Boo again and we hear her voice but we don't actually see the reunion. If I end it like this, then it would mean taking out a few of the ending shots and the dance over the credits. While they are cute and nice to draw, it would shorten the film and reduce the workload for the same result and allow the audience to think a bit more which is always good!

In addition to the animatic, I compiled some of my earlier character tests (walk cycles and tail movement) and a test of the camera tracking through my background with rain over the top in After Effects. I also took two of my shots in the animatic and keyed them out. The first, shot 17, shows the Spirit hesitating after leaving Amber which is fully animated in blue Prismacolour pencils. Perhaps it needs some refining, but I may not have the time once I'm doing the rest of the workload. Then I scanned it and composited against a background in Photoshop, alpha channeled the background and colourised the lines a warm brown. I prepared each frame as a PSD and sent them in a zip file to my younger sister, Eleanor to colour. Her work is online here:

I asked her to use a brush with slightly soft edges so it wouldn't boil too much on the stills. It still does a little however, so it might be a better tactic to duplicate the colour layer to the next frame and edit it rather than repainting the whole frame. I also key framed a background pan for shot 36 where Amber runs up the hill in her Spring dress, this was challenging as it involves perspective in addition to a camera move, but it came out well.

I initially thought I would paint watercolour backgrounds, but the digital wash also produces the desired effects and is quicker so that is probably how I will continue my backgrounds.

After speaking to Matthew today, he encouraged me to begin production even if the animatic still needs changing. As an independent film, I don't need a solid animatic to secure the film for other people to work on, so the best thing for me is to start animating and see it evolve. So I will be posting again soon with animation tests as I finish them!

Also as a point of interest, I pasted the entirety of my blog into a word document to submit as my development and it filled 132 A4 pages with 15,596 words! That's more than my dissertation! If only I could use it...

Monday, 16 January 2012

Spirit Pencil Test [S017]

Just exported a pencil test for shot 17 from my new animatic when the Spirit hesitates and turns to look back at Amber--the turning point of their first encounter!

I'm using blue Chromacolour pencils for this which I am colouring a warm orange/brown on the computer and applying colour washes to each frame and the background for the final shot. I'm working on this and one other shot for the film for my 'feasibility' study to hand in tomorrow. The aim is to show enough tests and examples of final shots to prove we have what it takes to see the project through to the end!

It didn't take too long to animate and there are some held frames. The tail was proving difficult, especially to give the sense of flow when the Spirit is running. I think this could do with a few fixes but I'm not sure yet if I'll have time to go back and change things!

Apart from animation I've just finished my new animatic with original sound from my composer, Ben Rusch. It took all week to draw and composit and edit the frames, but it's been so exciting to see it finally come together, I'll have it uploaded tomorrow!

In the meantime, I'm off to finish this hand-in work!

Friday, 6 January 2012

Amber Walk Cycle and Spirit Tail Tests

This afternoon I animated a new walk cycle for Amber, as I haven't animated her since her redesign a few weeks ago, so I figured she needed a new walk cycle test. She is now about 5-6 years younger and has different outfits for each season.

I drew her with some new blue Prismacolour pencils I got from Chromacolour recently. I really enjoy the loose feel of these pencils and although blue is usually for key animators to then be drawn afresh on new paper by clean-up artists using lead pencils, I will be colouring my lines an orange/brown colour, so the colour I use to animate will not effect the final look. So I may just draw everything in blue!

I decided to give her baggier and more oversized sleeves from what I drew in my model sheet, I think I prefer it this way and it gives some interesting options for character performance, so I may amend her 'Autumn' design later!

After this, I did some rough key frames of how the Spirit's tail might move (from side-to-side) to give a watery, lava-lamp style. I used a lava-lamp as reference to see how it could break apart and join up again. The first result is not working as well as I hoped, it appears like bubbles as opposed to watery droplets. The second is an improvement, so if I get good feedback on it then I will most likely take it further. Otherwise it's back to the drawing board!