Media Practice 2: Reflective Essay

The Media Practice 2 module consists of an interdisciplinary project, client based project and a pre-production pack for the final major project. My approach has organically been taking form, developing with some regulated areas. I will address the current practices and practitioners that have inspired my work and the importance of theories learned, tested and applied. In addition, I will discuss the development of my work and stylistic approach.

From my last reflective presentation, I have carried forward some aspects of my methodological approach. This involves the research aspect of visual references through channels such as Pinterest and further technical knowledge of software and drawing techniques have been acquired through PuralSight and Youtube. My influences however have been adapting and changing. From the idea of animated documentaries and ‘Life Driven by Death’ by Paul Wells, it has led on to new styles and a wider scope of material to investigate. Part of the animated documentaries has helped in the development of PROMISE client project titled Balance. New reading material has challenged my thinking such as Ed Catmull’s Creativity, Inc that describes his experiences leading up to and after the birth of Pixar Animation Studios. Reading the challenges that Catmull faced in management and learning about how to stimulate creativity between colleagues was inspiring and aided in my understanding of collaboration during the interdisciplinary project and the client project. Other readings have improved my understanding and approach in terms of animating dynamically and compositionally. Such books include Setting the Scene by Fraser Maclean and Force Dynamic Life Drawing for Animators by Michael Mattesi.

Collaboration has been the bulk of the first part of the module, which I have learned a lot from. I have built an understanding of the need to manage expectation and clear communication in order to produce and move forward from ideas to reality. Within the interdisciplinary project, exchange of interests and creative projects was very helpful in understanding how we can visually compromise, then going beyond to be innovative. For the PROMISE client project, a soundtrack and sound design was needed and thus I worked with an audio engineer. I wanted to supply with some sound references but also to encourage creativity on his side. Through discussions, and casual exchange of sound distortions and explorations, a soundtrack was produced that complimented the animation. Communication with the clients was also an important aspect and they were updated at appropriate times throughout the project.

From an aesthetics and technical point of view, the clients from PROMISE were flexible in terms of the outcome. Thus the approach was in the style of Disney and more similar to my earlier project Memories than the other project Light and Shadow as it is more narrative with interacting characters. I continued to use Photoshop and then compositing it in AfterEffects, however lip syncing was a new concept at this point. Through research from the module Media Discourses, I have taken an interest in anthropomorphism and its use in the animation industry. There were two main character design approaches I considered taking before I developed the storyboard for Balance that were on the extreme ends of the anthropomorphic graphic style. One was to draw them wearing clothes, standing upright like humans. The second approach was to draw them more as animals who talked and interacted with the nature around them. During client meetings, it was interesting to discuss the differences between my work and the more anthropomorphic work of my classmate. As we are dealing with a sensitive topic of mental health, it was important to bear in mind appropriate visual material. It seemed that the death of an animal was less severe compared to a more relatable burial of a tombstone of the anthropomorphic zebra’s death.

It was very refreshing to have Trunk Animation Production Company visit the university and to have one of the directors discuss their approaches to work. Two projects have really stuck out to me. Both are music videos produced stylistically very differently. The first is David Gilmour’s song Rattle that Lock and the other is Shirley Collins’ Pretty Polly. For Rattle that Lock, everything was animated in 2D with long hours staring at a screen, whilst Pretty Polly was handmade and crafted with puppets. The level of ambition they have was inspiring for my final major project to explore different styles from what I have previously done.

The stylistic approach of my final major project initially began with rotoscoping tests of a hand crafted set. Later I decided to work with hybrid 2D and 3D animation. Instead of Photoshop, for this project I have been exploring the graphic outcomes of Animate CC and running tests with 3D modelling in Modo 902. The final components are then composited in After Effects. Writing a script was a new experience as well as developing and editing the storyline. An intertextual approach was applied as the plotline was adapted from a parable from the Bible about the Prodigal Son and inspired from other films to create a modern version of the parable. Cinematography and layout design came to my attention and how to transform dry conversation to dynamic action. Watching and analysing Disney films aided in terms of gesture and cuts. Other tutorials were helpful in understanding types of composition and transitional devices.

In conclusion, the level of ambition has grown and variety of aesthetics explored, yet drawings stylistically carries a similar character. There have been many aspects in the production of animation that I have learned that include collaboration, management, encouragement, graphic aesthetics, sensitivity of presentation and determination. From this reflection, it allows me to consider direction in the future of what to focus on and my methodological approach in my work. Consistent practice of drawing, refreshing inspiration and diving into challenging collaboration is key to further development.

 

 

 

Bibliography

Catmull, E., 2014. Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration. Ealing: Bantam Press.

Howard Wimhurst | YouTube, 2016. How to Merge 2D with 3D Animation – Flash Tutorial. [Online]
Available at: https://youtu.be/o_mMLzZYjd8

Howard Wimshurst | YouTube, 2017. How To Animate A Punch With Energy. [Online]
Available at: https://youtu.be/g64E-UNRqcg

Maclean, F., 2011. Setting the Scene | The Art and Evolution of Animation Layout. California: Chronicle Books LLC.

Mattesi, M. D., 2006. Force Dynamic Life Drawing for Animators. Burlington: Focal Press.

RocketJump Film School | YouTube, 2016. Cuts & Transitions 101. [Online]
Available at: https://youtu.be/OAH0MoAv2CI

Project for Client Promise

For our practice media module, we are meant to work for a client. We met the client yesterday and their company is called PROMISE (PROactive Management of Integrated Services and Environments). They are a paradigm of coproducing an alternative discourse in Mental Health Care. It is a discourse that aim sot create hope, empowering patients to strive for independence beyond illness. They value cultivating relationships between patients and professionals during this recovery journey.

Our brief is to create an animation based on a script already given, which sets the scene on the plains of East Africa. The conversation between a zebra and a bird reveals the zebra has previously gone through emotions and experiences of what it is like to have bi-polar disorder. This project is mainly aimed at increasing awareness, targeted to secondary school students about the difficulties facing this mental illness.

How I intend to undertake this project is firstly researching in these areas:

  • Character Design (of zebra and red-billed oxpecker)
    • Real footage of animals
    • Character styles
  • Environmental Design (East African plains, abstract backgrounds of the mind)

The documentary of the making of Zootopia has been a great inspiration and motivation in the beginning stage of this project.

Critical Analysis on ‘Life driven by death: animation aesthetics and the comic uncanny’ by Paul Flaig

The extract to be analyzed is from the journal article ‘Life driven by death: animation aesthetics and the comic uncanny’ by Paul Flaig. He proposes how comic uncanny can be derived from the universally shared notion of ‘life driven by death’ within the context of animation aesthetics. Furthermore he explores the blurred aesthetics of associating life with movement and death with stasis. Flaig is a lecturer of Film & Visual Culture at the University of Aberdeen. The majority of his research delves into the history of early cinema to contemporary film theory, comic genres to psychoanalysis. His article was published by a reputable journal called Screen, a leading international journal of academic film and television series based at the John Logie Baird Centre at the University of Glasgow, published by Oxford University Press. The article presents a thoroughly researched argument relevant to the animation industry, as it enriches the scope of aesthetics driven by this type of narrative can encapsulate an audience.

Within this extract, Flaig makes his first point by highlighting Toy Story 3’s success that comes from the empathetic life of the toy protagonists. What enriches the quality of his argument is through establishing the root definition of animation from the written works of credible animators of Disney’s Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas. The term stems from ‘animus’, which means ‘life or to live’. There must be evidence of life in the single drawing for it to be animation. Flaig introduces John Lasseter founder of Pixar and creator of Toy Story, taught under Johnston and Thomas, how his early films embodied animating lifeless objects, giving them personalities. How this kind of aesthetic would guide the film’s narrative. Although their written work is dated in 1995 it is still applicable in this context, as Flaig draws on how life has its own diversity rather than monotonous replications of character. He demonstrates this through linking how empathetic life enables humor to be derived through the unique character rather than the standard mass produced gag. It reflects how in Toy Story, humor is drawn differently according to each unique character. Toy Story 3 is one of the highest grossing animations, yet Flaig does not consider other qualities that could have contributed to the movie’s success. Also to include comparisons of other animation aesthetics would guide in better understanding appeal in the comic uncanny aesthetic.

Another point Flaig leads on to be that life in the Toy Story films is meaningful only in its proximity to death. He quotes well-known animation theorist Cholodenko to support the point of how animation cannot be thought without thinking loss and death, the other aspect to the cycle of life. Relating this to Toy Story, Flaig points out how there is a mortality of the toys, the fear of their child playmate abandoning them as they transition into adulthood. This relation between animation and morality is supported from Buzz Lightyear’s quote from Toy Story ‘life is only worth living if you’re being loved by a kid’, demonstrating the desire for purpose and to stay relevant is fundamental to life. These concepts although logically reasoned can be easily simplified without considering other factors that may be the driving life over death. There also lacks the standpoint of demographic acknowledgement, which suggest assumptive generalizations.

The third point Flaig raises is the division of life with movement and death with stasis can be blurred in animation aesthetics. He relates this in recent film theory that in the association of death with deanimated stillness, even photographic stoppage or Barthesian puncta would have the illusion of life. Flaig uses in Vivian Sobchack’s words the inanimate stillness is at the heart of cinematic animation to support his argument. This is sustained through Freud’s ideas of how children give a personal association with their toys, treating them like live people. This concept of life driven by death highlights the toys struggle, striving to remain relevant, to have a purpose, loved and cared for by their child playmate. It is through the sentimental metaphors of for mortality of childhood that impact the lives of the toys as they face their finitude. Flaig also references Freud, that children do not distinguish sharply between living and inanimate objects, thus treat their toys as though like live people. From a psychoanalytic perspective on the cognition of the human mind and its attitude towards a life driven by death, allows the concept of the comic uncanny to be better grasped.

Flaig develops his arguments to this final point that from the blurred boundaries of associating life with movement and death with stasis arises a different mode of comedy, the comic uncanny gag that overtakes narrative, personality and empathetic storylines. He takes Freud’s concept further by suggesting this comic uncanny originates from the proximity to fear of subjective dislocation and spatial disorientation, rather than distance from this anxiety. This proposal has potential research opportunities to discover insights for animation aesthetics. However, it is necessary for Flaig to differentiate the subjective nature and any universal qualities of the comic uncanny.

In conclusion, through logical presentations of precedents Flaig successfully raises the driving force behind this animation aesthetic is confronting death with humour. Without the threat of death, the films would lack the pathos that builds upon evoking a deeper connection with the character’s lives. From my perspective, the concept of the fear of being replaced or being outdated is a very relatable notion to the viewer, thus is able to draw the viewer in. A thought-provoking association can be drawn between Toy Story’s comic uncanny with Paul Wells’ article on ‘The Animation Manifesto or, What’s Animation Ever Done for Us?’. In Wells’ article, he presents an animation manifesto in order to re-establish its role in today’s creative industry, and within the section describing it to be a matter of life and death, it reflects the struggle to stay relevant and develop a professional identity. This paper presents potential areas of research, to examine the interplay of animation aesthetics, plotline development and the role of the animator. It is an inevitable and heavy subject matter that appeals to the hearts of people and thus the animation industry can utilize this to impact generations.

 

Bibliography

Cholodenko, A., 1993. The Illusion of Life. s.l.:Power Institute of Fine Arts.

Flaig, P., 2013. Life driven by death: animation aesthetics and the comic uncanny. Screen, pp. 1-3.

Freud, S., 1997. ‘The Uncanny’, writings on Art and Literature. s.l.:Stanford University Press.

Johnston, O. & Thomas, F., 1995. Disney Animation: the Illusion of Life. New York: NY: Disneys.

Sobchack, V., 2009. Animation and automation, or, the incredible effortfulness of being. Screen, 50(4).

Wells, P., 2015. The Animation Manifesto or, What’s Animation Ever Done for Us?. Volume 188, pp. 94-100.

 

 

Research and Enquiry Assignment Criteria

This module aims to provide students with a range of research and reflective skills suitable for postgraduate-level study in art, art therapy, design, film, media and music.

– research and reflective skills
– improvement of own work
– Evaluation
– Other creative methodologies
– How to progress

The module views creative, technical and therapeutic practices as research processes and helps students locate their own work within contemporary, advanced-level practice in their discipline and to make a critical evaluation of the bodies of practice and ideas that sustain them. Key skills addressed include those of research management, critical evaluation, academic conventions, notions of creative, technical and therapeutic practice as research methodologies, and a range of modes of contextual analysis.

The skills gleaned on this module will provide students with a platform for research for the remainder of the programme and in their future careers.

 

010203

Media Discourses Assignment Criteria

– Developing knowledge of structures, distribution systems of industry
– Financial, legal processes
– Histories, traditions, cultural impacts of own discipline
– Theoretical approaches and considerations

The aims of this module are to enable students to…..

  • – Further develop the student’s knowledge of, and critical thinking about, the theoretical, historical and contemporary cultural contexts of their discipline area generally and their own practice particularly, to a standard appropriate for postgraduate study.

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