I’ve decided to make a blog of my third year project. I haven’t kept a blog since my first year at UCA Farnham, so I am treating this as more of an informal yet organised way to keep track of my workload rather than a formal upload.
I have to apologise for my quietness over this past month. Due to an unforeseen incident that happened earlier this month I have been in and out of hospital which later revealed two broken bones in my left hand. This trauma made working on my animation Tone Death rather difficult. I was able to distract myself by working on my Random Acts project for a while and submitted a working copy of my film for my deadline on the 15th with a document explaining all the steps I still needed to do to make it the film I know it can be.
But now comes the point where I feel stable in myself emotionally to work on my film once again and today I have spent the day slowly working on my sound design.
So on Thursday 11th May I went up to London to pitch my film “In my Shoes”
The idea has changed slightly from day to day routine into more of a show and tell of how these guys have gained independence and integrated into society such as Lee and Damien working at tuck by truck and Theo volunteering at dog trust. I wanted to highlight that the community has helped them to integrate with socialising such as night club and pub nights. If it was not for the initial interview in the Easter break I wouldn’t have got half the knowledge of what I need to know to make a more interesting narrative.
I decided to animate a section of my test audio to give a taster of how I planned to animate my film.
-this type of voice over animation is something I have never done. Wanted to make it visually fun to watch and do something different. I have chosen audio to highlight how much Darren can do in one day at previous home it would be one or the other
Big Tip: use External Speakers for Volume and Dynamics and use Headphones for Accuracy and Detail
Knowing that my sound is currently the weakest part of my animations right now, I decided to really work on what I wanted to achieve with the soundtrack before I saw James this afternoon so that I could get the most out of the tutorial and that way know exactly what I could fix this weekend. I arrived with a list of questions, ranging from “why is my voice actors voice so loud now?” to “Does this sound work for representing this?” to finally “Does anything jump out as being wrong?”
The last time I had seen James before the easter break I was working on several different mix downs in Audition: One for my Voice Actor, one for my Audience, one for my Music, that kind of thing. Which is all well and good until I combine all those sound tracks in premier and then it turns out that one track is so quiet in comparison to the other because I did not have the different frequencies to compare against. I still have these individual files, but now when I render out the complete sound track for that area in my film, I add it to a collaboration mix down so that I can compare the sound against the rest before putting them into premier. This helps in previewing the files as I can compare them all together and my computer doesn’t take ages to buffer whereas this is the case on each individual track in their own mix down.
So we listened to my film on the speakers to get a better understanding of how my film would be heard on a form of surround sound. This was earsplitting at times. Before I came to this session I thought some of my Voice Acting audio was loud and didn’t understand how every time I turned the track volume down it would make no difference in the overall thing. Turns out it was the ‘effect’ I had added to the track in my Voice Acting Audition document! The Noise Reduction and Equaliser Clean Up effect makes it more obvious when the audio clips in and out and has also made some files too loud and now you can hear the crackle and edginess of the audio recording. When selecting a preset effect it often has several effects clubbed together. This was the issue I had with the Noise Reduction and Equaliser Clean Up effect I had chosen, as part of the effect it puts a hard limit on the volume – so anything higher than that frequency is cut off, which is why at times my audio seemed to crackle. By turning the effect on and off it was clear to hear the difference between having it on and off – in short having these effects on was adding 3DB to my audio which made my audio really loud as it was crushing the levels and making the audio full on and turning down the singular track level would make no difference. So seeing James solved that problem! Otherwise I would have tried to make the volume as quiet as possible and gotten no where. One way to check an audio after an effect is to click the lightning bolt symbol which renders out a version of the sound with the effect so it can be listened to
Person Leaving the room:
Because of the equaliser the sound just became an inaudible bang and shuffle it didn’t make sense what was going on. James said to take the equaliser effect off and try putting a double of the effect as if two people have left the room as this would make the audience think what they are hearing is people leaving, otherwise it is sort of disconcerting why there is a bang midway through a shot. If that did not work then it is worth taking that piece of audio out altogether. Play with the distance too as they seem too close.
James also helped with my announcer voice at the beginning to sound more “in” the building with a reverb that was different to the one I had chosen rather than using the ‘Concert Hall’ in Full Reverb settings it is now a ‘Lecture Hall’ in the Convolution Reverb settings as it sounds closer and has less echo.
Tone Death Walts:
I wanted James to analyse the end scene with Tone Death Waltz as the piano changes into an eery echo of itself as the hand dips in a ballet styled move – as Vida had suggested in my tutorial yesterday – I liked it but I wanted to make sure it made sense in a musical as well as narrative sense. James seemed to like it and hopefully when I edit that part in after effects to make it more ‘dreamlike’ it will all come together!
My music still sounds very ‘Midi’ and computer based. I explained that for the time being my focus has been on my voice actor James suggested – Like last time, but it did not get done on this version that he was viewing – using another plug in reverb effect such as used on the voice actors to create a slight echo, not a huge effect like on the end bit of the waltz but enough that it does not sound like its played on a computer. Reverb will help with distance as pretend the camera has the microphone
This is a setting which can be used to get rid of data to make a file smaller. This however would be dynamic compression which can be placed on the master track of an Audition File and it makes the loudest sound quieter and the quietest sound louder so that it brings everything closer and glues it all to fit together better. Its a tricky subject to learn but it might make my files easier to render out and make my sound levels more equal as I have so much audio to work with. It’s worth looking at this 5 minute tutorial on Linda.com to get a better understanding of Compression. Compression is not needed for all sounds however as it could mess up my levels more if I have a super quiet sound and a super loud sound. So warning given.
So I haven’t had a tutorial on my final film with Vida since my animatic stage of my animation back in February! It was really nice to get Vida’s views on my film so far as she’s not seen it in so long that its like a fresh pair of eyes to the film, but not so fresh that she doesn’t know what my film was about or suggest something to add in at the last minute.
Again I explained that sound and my edit were the key concerns to improve after my Final Cut crit that was on Monday. The reason why I wanted a second tutorial today was that at this point in the project I want as many peoples views on my final cut as I can get to see how people react and get advice on where to improve it. Someone might see something that someone else has glanced over previously.
Some shots are a little bit show, at the beginning particularly – this refers to some of the shots that I lengthened after my final cut. More the action of the hand being ‘evil’ these shots are not as dramatic as they could be, feels a bit too slow. Quicken the pace?
I wanted to check that some places where the music cuts in and out, i feel is quite quick in action playing. I had originally about 8 seconds worth of animation between the two parts and now that it has been cut out I feel like it is quite quick. But Vida felt that it helps build tension and didn’t feel like an 8-10 second sequence had been cut. She wondered if in my edit I could view it as “This hand is evil, this hand is not.” and in that way try to show the difference by separating the two somehow and make Left Hand be more dramatic, maybe in a slightly quicker pacing of Vincent? some form of Editing Wizardry. Just to make the two more distinct between each other.
Vida thought it would be nice to have a crowd cheering or clapping at the end of the animation, only to realise that they are clapping but the chosen sound I had is not strong need and I need a much better sound to take its place. She also queried my musical piano piece if it would be my final one as it feels a bit clinical in design and I said yes it is the piece I will be using and I am aware of the sound being technical, but when animating I have been following this tune and I have accepted this to be the piece.
Quick note on the hand being broken off, my ‘bam’ needs to be more ‘BAM!’ make the audience feel that break rather than it being muffled by the squish and snap of the hand also maybe speed up the slam but it could be that the squish is making it seem slower.
Vida asked if I would be using the echo-y style for the end as she questioned why sometimes the hand plays the notes and other times doesn’t touch a key but the music is still being heard. I explained that at the ending of Tone Death the piece “Tone Death Waltz” is more of a dance sequence than a musical piece to be played which is why the piece is more eery and ghostly with the reverb and effects. Vida suggested that I should experiment with the piece changing the treating of the sound so that there is piano whilst the hand does play the correct notes and then it slowly easies its way into this eery tone and somehow make the sound more ‘Fuller’ wither with other instruments or upping the sound quality some way so that it sounds more…well MORE!
This combined with some form of visual lighting in post would help step the audience into seeing the ending as a dance rather than wondering why the hand stops playing the notes. Lighting would help create a more visual dream like state (Maybe Purple?). Maybe in After Effects with a genteel colour tone or airy fuzziness about it. Create a weird theatrical atmosphere where the audience is dumbfounded and then after a pause the hand stops and the audience roar with approval. By doing this it will make the steps seem more intentional and less “Oh I’ve animated this and now it doesn’t match up as well as I had hoped.”
Vida also questioned my blue lighting when the hand has been cut off as a stark contrast to the red seen earlier. I also explained that the lighting was used as a melancholic symbol to suggest the struggle that Vincent has gone through to get this far as well as to suggest that the lights are half turned off as we believe the story is over. Vida wasn’t so sure that this came across in my story and might be mistaken for a colour balance issue. She suggested making this a bit clearer, this could be done with making my errie tension building music louder.
Basically: colour balance, sound and difference between hands in the edit (manic, jerky, erratic).
Well I must say it was lovely to see Jim two days in a row and finally show him my work, as the last tutorial I had with him was during the concept stage of Tone Death in the very beginning of the year in September!
First thing he said when he finished watching my new edited final cut was that it was lovely and really effective with the hand shots fitting in well with the film. This really made my day that someone who hasn’t seen the difference between hand puppets and live hands and can associate my hands as Christopher’s hands in the animation, rather than just saying that they work better than my previous pupated hands.
I did explain that there are times where the music doesn’t quite tally up with my new edited footage as I quickly worked on the sound last night before my tutorial but he thought that with my piece there is: “an understanding that it would be lovely if each note was perfectly played, but that is not what your film is about. Well, it kind of is but it isn’t. For me there is an acceptance to your film. If it was a perfectly played piece of music I would interpret it as another film entirely where we focus just about the notes.”
Before we began the tutorial I expressed my concerns about the querying of Christopher’s voice from the review of my Final Cut and asked him with this in mind to tell me truthfully what he thought was wrong with it. Jim summed the issue down to not being the age of the voice but rather the presence of him in the recording itself. So there are times, especially in the beginning sequence behind stage where the action is close up yet the audio suggests that the action is happening across the room. This I feel is partly due to my recording – as I set up the recording across a dinning room table so that the sound levels didn’t get too high, but in this case not high enough it would seem. – Another reason for this could most likely be the reverb I put on the sound track in my Adobe file as I wanted it to have a slight echo to suggest the vastness of the hall. I need my voice to be closer as some shots suggest a camera is right next to him, so we should hear as if we are next to him which at the moment we don’t. Equally where Christopher cracks his knuckles we should have a louder sound of the hands moving together to build up the movement of clicking. Jim: “Its like strawberry flavoured yoghurt rather than actual strawberry yoghurt.” This extra sound will help the audience to anticipate that he is about to click and it will improve the ‘brightness’ of the click which is more accepting and realistic than the simple fake sound.
Finally Jim noted that my audience doesn’t sound too connected with the action happening on stage, he queried whether this was to do with the type of audience they were being refined and standoffish, when it comes to the point of Vincent playing by himself it becomes quirky and this is where an audience should react best, be it in a funny manner or appalled or awed.
“Its obviously a dark and tragic film but it has a lovely, delightful sense of humour, so the audience may not even need to react. This point (Vincent crawling out of piano) its utterly unnecessarily disgusting, which is brilliant, so maybe they don’t have to react.”
Jim thought I had some strong lighting, with some shots being beautiful staged by shadow. He did wonder if I could experiment with a dark shadowy overlay on top of my ‘behind the scenes’ shots to vamp up the isolation and personal hell that Christopher is experiencing so that when he goes onto the stage it is suddenly all bright and there is hope that he can overcome the hand but also there is no where to hide.
On a final note Jim said I had a really accomplished film with some terrific shots and he was eager to find out more on how I had shot some of the hand sequences on live capture he also really liked how I created the warm glow light with a plastic takeaway box, foil and a yellow gel attached to a light in the studio.
I was so excited for todays workshop, been waiting weeks for the chance to have a break from grad film and just enjoy some fun animation that won’t be analysed or graded! Jim is also a really lovely man to be taught by, I always come away with a smile on my face when I see him. Today we looked at his trademarked ‘Phonotrope(TM)’ animations. This was a really nice work shop as we were told as animators to not over think things and just roll with it. Start off with a line or a ball and see where it goes. At first I had slight difficulty working on 33 frames rather than 25fps or 12.5fps. I found it helped to stop when I got to the half way point of the disk and then try to bring the action back to the start, so that a sort of wave is happening.
I started this disk with a simple green dot and made it move in a slight arc. I played it on the record player and it worked, so I then added a large purple ball which as it bounces upward gets smaller and hits the top of the box so it comes back down again. Next I added a pink line which rotated in a circle on the frames bellow the purple ball. What happened unintentionally is that the line hits the purple ball so it looks as if the line smacks the ball up into the air. A happy coincidence.
I got this really happy feeling from seeing the pieces interact with each other and it was so simile. Jim was right, if I had overthought things I wouldn’t nearly have got such a great effect on my first try.
For my next Phonotrope(TM) I made a blue zig zag move inside a box, now that I was getting the hang of the technique I tried adding different colours to each frame to see if this would cause some sort of distortion when viewing the Phonotrope(TM). As we had just had easter I decided to do a sort of bouncing egg – I say sort of because I hadn’t intended to but the egg sort of hovered and then moved upward as I drew it on the ninth or so drawing. Thus it became a bouncing egg! – again trying not to over think the animation, just going with the flow.
I then took this piece further by switching between two colours each frame on the spare spaces below the eggs. At first this was not so obvious when I swapped between the pink/red and green/light green biros so I had to colour over them in feltpen. This created a much more vivid image and I possibly took the design a bit too far as I decided to add a huge purple swirl and I feel that then makes it all a bit too much on the eyes.
Seeing that this was all a bit hectic I decided to go back to simple patterned lines and work with that, thinking less about the animation it would produce and more about a visual pattern on a disk and just seeing how it would spin once it was on the deck.
First there is a blue line which follows the box around each frame moving right, up, left, up, right, up and so forth until it reaches the centre. This was inspired after Toby and I had a discussion about ‘Tron’ and how the bikes must stay attached to the grid and create a light trail. This however did not work as well as I had hoped. It does work, however it is over powered by much bolder colours later on. This is a similar story with the bright yellow ball which bounces, it is not necessarily noticed until it interacts with the purple line.
I then have a pink box which is filled in on every other frame. This creates a sort of boil/glitch as it spins. Finally there is a purple line which acts like the mobile phone game ‘Snake’ as it changes direction in a diagonal purpose every time it hits the wall. Over all I am surprised with how this Phonotrope(TM) planned out as I was thinking more about the design pattern that the animation. I seemed to be headed in a Greek lined pattern.
Things became a bit more complex as we moved on to adding 3D shapes. Toby was really good at this and started shaping sticky tack and making little boulders which turned into squares and span. I decided as Jim had mentioned this earlier when showing us his acetate sheet animations to print out the frames of one of my GIF’s and have them stand on a Phonotrope(TM) to see how that would move.
So I ended up selecting between 34 and 40 frames of my hand gif can-caning. The reason for the different numbers is to do with american vs european capture settings. So similar to animation where europeans capture on 25fps and Americans capture on 30fps, in the case of capturing movement on a Phonotrope(TM) the camera for a european animator would be 34fps and an American animator would do 40fps. Funny world.
Once lapelled and cut out I then had to stick these tiny frames onto triangles so that they would stand up tall. This was no small job and took me about an hour even with Toby’s help placing them on the Phonotrope(TM). These paper frames were roughly 3cm by 2cm in size.
Once it was placed on the deck it was noticed that for one frame it jumped. This is when we realised that I was working to a 40fps cork board and the camera we had didn’t like the capture time. So we then took away a couple of frames from the beginning as it is the same image for about 8 frames and put it back on the deck.
Changing the amount of frames now created a much smoother image. If I had thought about it first I would have taken away the first 10 frames where the hand gets up from the ground and added 10 more frames of leg movement, that way I would have had a constant loop of a hand doing the can can. But all the same I was really pleased with this 3D piece
Following on from this I tried experimenting with the triangles themselves. This proved to be so much harder than I had anticipated. I did get myself a little confused because where I had tried to get the triangle to flip, sometimes the triangle would bend over into the next fames space, meaning no space for another triangle. This resulted in a very glitchy un animated sequence.
Jim said that for the Phonotrope(TM) to work I needed to fill every frame. This is where going from 2D into 3D became a lot harder and more of a problem solving solution. But a fun one all the same! After a couple of test runs it actually managed to work which was rather impressive.
It took a couple of shots because there are times when you think you’ve filled all the frames but then as it plays you realise theres one missing, so you stop the record player and then can’t find which space was had the missing triangle!
So to summarise this was a brilliant work shop which really helped me take my mind of my grad film. It almost felt like a colouring in session that just so happened to include animation and once we got a taste for the excitement of things moving we wanted to be more ambitious and cleaver with what we could make move and loop. All in all a delightful work shop to attend.
Thank you Jim Le Fevre for your time and teaching and thank you UCA Farnham for setting us up with such a brilliant treat!
After my Final Cut Crit it was suggested that I shoot a few more shots where there suggests the daunting presents of the audience just out of sight but never out of mind. These shots are done with precise placement of the light so that it reflects onto the camera lens and almost sets of a blinding point – I then move the camera slightly off centre – so that there is a beam of soft focus light. This helps to create a large emptiness beyond the focused action in front of the camera.
Another shot suggesting the vastness of the concert hall and that there beyond sight is a fully packed crowd witnessing the gradual failure of a proud performer. Today I have been experimenting with brief head turns towards the audience, suggesting that Christopher cannot quite block out his fans reactions which in turn cause him to panic further internally which leads to further misplayed keys and dread.
24/04/17 Today was the first day of final cuts screened in the large cinema screen rooms. After the amount of time and effort I put into editing my film over the easter break I was not overly worried about what I had to show. I was much more confident with this crit than I was with Rough Cut (Was it really just over one month ago?! doesn’t seem like it!) Once I had a played my Final Cut to my audience – and Tutor judges – It was then time for the critical analysis.
1). Lesley’s big point that needed improvement was my sound:
Basically, my main character does not quite sound old enough and is a little over the top and whimpers at times. I agree partly with this comment, yes he does not sound old enough at some points in the film – this being because the actor who is voicing Christopher is 25 or so years old. But I am not really happy with the comment about Christopher being too over the top as I have always said I have wanted my character to be dramatic and specifically chose to direct the voice actor in this manner when I recorded the voice in February when I went home for my birthday (The voice actor lives round my home town so it was easy enough to schedule a meeting when I was home for the weekend). I really like the voice and have been happy and had locked it down as a done thing.
However if it had been mentioned earlier that the voice wasn’t liked I could have got Joseph (the voice actor) to meet with me over the Easter break and we would have gone over the script again. But I didn’t do this because I thought the voice was great and there had been no implication that the voice needed changing. This concerns me as I still like the voice and I don’t have time to go back home and re-record the voice and I don’t really want anyone else because for me Joseph IS Christopher Price, because he is the only person I have ever visualised to voice the character.
As a whole I am aware when I have been editing on Adobe Audition, I have separated out the sound tracks: one for Christopher, one for the Audience, one for Music etc. Now although this is all well and good, when I have then compiled the files together for the film. Some of the beats were missed because the audience’s sound levels were too quiet in relation to the rest of the tracks. His voice performance is a bit weak in volume and needs to be more forward and prominent in the work, similarly so does the audience track too as it is far too quiet at some points and barely noticeable in others.
2). On a positive note, Lesley said that my film really well lit.
This pleased me as there are moments where I play with the coloured lighting of the film to play with tension and to unsettle the audience. Once I added the tension building eery piano keys I feel this has worked really well.
3). Cutting scenes point 1: The ‘V’s’ Scene
It was agreed by the tutors that this scene now seems too cartoon like and silly. This was the first time watching it back as a film in completion, and now this shot does not really fit well with the tone of the film. This scene feels too comical and trivialises the hand’s ‘badness’. If I take this moment out it makes the hand more cynical and sinister as a character.
Sadly this scene has been given the chop from my animation to have a the greater impact that I desire, but I really like it so I feel it needs to be acknowledged somewhere in my work. Welcome to the blog “Shot_43_midshot_scene5_up_yours” you were one of my favourites.
4). Cutting scenes point 2: The Hand Bows Welcome
Another scene that has made it to the graveyard of the editing list. This shot was animated in a time-lapse to create a pixilated bow for Vincent Lee (The Left Hand). This shot was set near the beginning to show Vincent’s true colours as he attempts to make himself centre stage in the lime light. Slightly sad to see this one go but if it means a better film awaits me then so be it.
This scene suggested that the hand is flapping rather than bowing. It was also said that it is too soon to have the hand play up again after its struggle with Christopher backstage. This is information we don’t need as an audience as we have established that the hand is going to be a problem, but at this moment it needs to be about Christopher keeping control not about Vincent’s reveal – since this has been mentioned more than once already I will now take this scene out of my animation. Lesley said that I should consider how the hand would bow, it shouldn’t bow as a human would, as this current moment feels very (in Lesley’s words): “Hiya!” and “ooh look at me” being too peppy and not grand and flamboyant in a bow as it should be.
It was a unanimous vote amongst the Tutors to drop the scene. We have acknowledged that there is a problem with Christopher and his hand in the setting scene before but now the character must keep it under control for a while before it starts playing up again. It breaks my heart but if it needs to be taken out to help the film progress then so be it.
Today’s Words of Wisdom
Stuart: the thing you are going to find really hard is editing and cutting your work out. Just because you’ve done the shot does not mean all the shots need to be in the film.
Robert: Be ruthless, you’ve had your animating hat on, now its time to take that hat off and replace it with your editing hat. Editing is ruthless, if it doesn’t work cut it. Ultimately the audience won’t thank you if theres a hard pice of animated work in the film but it doesn’t make sense or work with the story. They won’t say ‘oh I’m glad that piece was left in that looked really hard to animate’. No they will say, ‘why was that there?’
Okay so my editing hat is on now. Like Ash in Pokemon, its turned to the side and It’s not coming off until after the deadline.
5). I need more pressure from the audience character.
To do this I need another moment or two where we ‘see’ the audience as the vast emptiness and I should build up the character of the audience as a whole, have a more distinctive cough. Maybe throw in a ‘your rubbish’ type of heckle. Really make him sweat in the hot seat as he sees his career slowly become a car crash in front of his very eyes. One of these scenes should be inserted after the ‘trilling’ of the white keys that the left hand plays, as the pace of slip ups increases.
(These scenes were shot this afternoon in the studio after crit.)
6). Finally Pacing of Scenes from Start to Finish.
When watching my film from beginning to end something is noticeable, the equal pacing. The shot with the curtains at the beginning needs to be with the sound of an orchestra warming up, this was suggested to go on for about 5 seconds to set the scene before the voice of “Welcome” comes into play (currently this scene is about 2 seconds). This will set the tone and not let the film start too soon – at the moment it feels very jumpy and fast. If I use less shots but hold on them for longer it will be a clean setting and less cut and jumbled. The cutting speed is too quick for the moment, the beginning needs to start off slower and then gradually build speed to help raise the frantic tension, as the cutting speed helps intensify the drama. I can triple or quadruple the length of maybe the first 5 shots to really settle in the audience to the scene. Remember that pauses are my friend!
- So an overall Summary of today’s critic:I’m rather happy. The start needs to be slower, the dramatic shots need to be tighter/quicker, I need to build up audience as character (in terms of sound),and need to strengthen Christopher’s character (in terms of sound). I have already re-shot some audience obis scenes and am ready to continue editing.
Its all there I just need to Cut, Edit and work on Sounds!
So like I said before hand I wanted to do Random Acts this summer. Well I went to see the guys I would like to interview and animate. On friday 21st April I went to the house and asked a few questions first of all to make sure that the tenants were all happy to talk to me (Damien was certainly a bit shy at the start!) and secondly to get a rough idea of where I could take my next set of questions for the proper animation later on (providing I get Selected).
For example, I had not realised that the house go clubbing every other Friday night or that they go out each day for work or volunteering. This brief investigation has opened up a much wider topic to explore for the animation and I am full of excitement to see where this project will take me. I am really please that I took the initiative to interview these guys before I uploaded my submission to Random Acts as I now have so much ‘voomf’ and energy to make this film as the possibilities to animate have become wider and waaaaay more interesting.
(video is Password Protected)