Thursday, 30 September 2010

Character Design Workshop Week 2...



Our second character design workshop lesson began with an introduction to the 3 different shapes used in character design. We were shown examples of characters made of these three shapes; circles, squares, and triangles. It showed us how each different shape creates a different feel, for instance circles create a round, soft and safe feeling, whereas triangles are sharper and give signs of danger. So depending on who your target audience is, you may choose to use a certain shape. You can also combine the shapes for more varied 'mashup' styles. We were also shown how the complexity and realism of characters has developed over time, from basic designs like the Powerpuff Girls to more human-like and further developed designs like Hercules. After our introduction, we were given the task of designing a group of henchmen for an evil asian army. I began with quite a generic and unmemorable design, so Justin felt I should be more imaginative and original with my design. This led to the first of my robot henchmen. I really like this design because you can see clear strength and power from the design. However, it isn't very clear that he's an evil henchman, I feel he looks too heroic. I then took the design in the direction of animals, leading to the design of my lizard henchman. I like this idea of aninal henchmen, but I feel my design doesn't work because the proportions aren't correct and there isn't a strong pose. I then decided to go back to the robot idea and develop a thinner character and a fatter character. I came up with thise idea because there is usually a variety of shapes and sizes in these cartoon groups. I like the idea of the female character, although i don't think my drawing skills were too strong on this one, with the proportions looking wrong. I had similar problems with the fatter character and i feel his design is even weaker. I'm really looking forward to developing my own characters for my western kung fu fighters now, and i can't wait to see what we do in next weeks workshop.

Western Kung Fu Fighters Storyline...

Our hero has fled his Asian origin and has become the sheriff of a western town. A constant trouble comes in the form of a young woman who gets by, as a train robber. The sheriff is very familiar with this character who he has a lot of run-ins with. One day she runs into some trouble with the evil villain who tries to kidnap her. Our hero saves her and this is the start of our father/daughter, hero/sidekick bond. Aware of their location, the villain threatens to return wreak havoc in their town.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Western Kung Fu Fighters... Sidekick Idea...



Female Sidekick traits:

- Young woman.
- Outlaw/trainrobber.
- No family.
- Gets herself into a lot of trouble.
- Cheeky.
- Strong, can stand on her own two feet.
- Comparisons to Aladdin, Jade from Jackie Chan adventures, Little Mermaid.
- Robs trains for food, she's homeless/poor.
- Audience will sympathise wil her, and see a lot their own rebelious traits in her.
- Adventurous, curious.
- Stubborn, doesn't need any help.
- Gets kidnapped a lot.
- Young 'apprentice' style character.
- Possibly like a daughterly figure to our hero.

Postmodernism in Kill Bill...



Kill Bill is strikingly postmodern in the sense that it deliberately plays with the audience's knowledge of its source material. Nearly everything in Kill Bill operates in part as homage to other films. Tarantino's casting is an example of postmodern intertextuality - a work's quoting, plagiarising, or alluding to other films or cultural artifacts - a phenomenon that abounds in postmodern cinema.

- The opening credit sequence and music evoke memories of Hong Kong's legendary Shaw Brother's films of the 1970s.

- Several actors were chosen in part because of their links to famous martial arts stories. Bill is played by David Carradine of Kung Fu television series fame - even Bill's flute in Kill Bill is the same instrument Carradine played as Caine in that series. Hatori Hanzo is blayed by Sonny Chiba who played several incarnations of that same character in the 1970s series Shadow Warriors/Kage No Gundan.

Other influences included:
- Japanese samurai films from the 1970s onwards, often used extreme blood effects.
- Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon helped inspire the wire-work fight scenes.

Postmodernism Lecture One...

- Postmodernism is difficult because, "The concept of postmodernism is not widely accepted or even understood..." (Fredric Jameson, The Cultural Turn).
- "'Postmodern' has become one of the most used, and abused, words in the language. Yet few people can say with any assurance what the term actually means or involves..." (Stuart Sim, The Routledge Companion to Postmodernism).
- Key words: Skepticism and Relativism.
- Relativism = Your truth and my truth have equal bearing. The way you see things and the way I see things are relative, there isn't one single truth that could be said to be the truth for everybody. (Refer to the cartoon in slides).
- Key words: High Modernism, Capitalist, Superabundance, Disconnected, Pop, Fragmentary, Eclectic Nostalgia, Simulacra, Superficiality, Flippant, Depthless, Fabulation, Pastiche, Bricolage, Aleatory.
- "... references to postmodernism crop up in a comic way in lager commercials [or] in a spoof of 'arty types'... An article in a British journal devoted to horror films recently described 'slasher movies' as the postmodern phenomenon... pretentiousness is held to typify those who even use the word..." (Glenn Ward, Postmodernism).
- "postmodernity is modernity without the hopes and dreams which made modernity bearable. It is a hydra-headed, decentred condition in which we get dragged along from pillow to post across a succession of reflecting surfaces..." (Dick Hebdige, Hiding in the Light) = a metaphor for postmodernity.
- The volume, Postmodernism for Beginners, uses another name for this same environment whn it suggests that its illustrated pages might constitute the "crucial guide for anyone fascinated or exasperated by the hall of mirrors that is postmodernism." (Richard Appiganesi, Chris Garret, Postmodernism for Beginners) = another metheaphor for postmodernity.
- Postmodernism is apocalyptic.
- Postmodernism is schizoid.
- Postmodernism is power.
- Postmodernism is revolutionary.
- Postmodernism is 'political correctness gone mad'.
- Postmodernism is self-obsessed.
- Postmodernism is a 'sell-out'.
- Postmodernism is blasphemous.
- Postmodernism is dangerous.
- Postmodernism is creative.
- Postmodernism is unimaginative.
- Postmodernism is bullshit.
- "The Sokal Hoax" shows the concept that postmodernism is bullshit.
- Postmodernism is everywhere.
- Postmodern Examples: Madonna, Lady Gaga, Bluewater, The Simpsons, Banksy, YouTube, Shrek, Family Guy: Blue Harvest, Scream, Cadbury Gorilla Advert, Disneyland, Snakes on a Plane and Wikipedia.
- "No one exactly agrees as to what is meant by the term, except, perhaps, that 'postmodernism' represents some kind of reaction to, or departure from, 'modernism'. Since the meaning of modernism is also very confused, the reaction or departure known as 'postmodernism' is doubly so..." (David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity).
- Modernism is difficult.
- Modernism is the deliberate departure from tradition and the use of innovative forms of expression that distinguish many styles in the arts and literature of the 20th century.
- "To be modern is to find ourselves in an environment that promises adventure, power, joy, growth, transformation of ourselves and the world... Modernity can be said to unite all mankind..." (Marshall Berman, All that is solid melts into air, 1982).
- "But it is a paradoxical unity - a unity of disunity; it pours us all into a maelstrom of perpetual disintegration and renewal, of struggle and contradiction, of ambiguity and anguish..." (Marshall Berman, All that is solid melts into air, 1982).
- How can modernism and postmodernism be all these things?
- "Where a modernist artist or writer would try to wrest a meaning from the world... the postmodernist greets the absurd or meaningless confusion of contemporary existence with a certain numbed or flippant indifference..." (www.answers.com/topic/postmodernism).
- Postmodernism is important.
- "There is no such thing as a definition of the postmodern... Postmodernism, with all its complexity and possible excesses, is an attempt to find new and more truthful versions of the world." (www.essortment.com/all/postmodernphilo_rorp.html).

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Bad Kids Go To Hell Review


Where do i start... With 5 'bad' school kids being contained in a library during detention which they believe to be cursed by an old Indian man, all sorts of mysterious and spooky events begin to occur, further confirming their concerns, and unfolding the stories of each character. From the beginning to end you are left pondering what will happen next as 5 wittle down to 2. It's been a while since i've read a comic, so it took me a while to get used to the order of reading things, this meant at the beginning i was slightly struggling to keep up with what was going on, but as i went on, it wasn't an issue. Bad Kids Go To Hell was an enjoyable read and was definitely the type of comic i could get into. I really enjoyed the illustrations which allowed me to visualise the story better. The mysterious narrative kept me hooked because there was always an interesting twist, and i found myself trying to guess what would happen next. After a series of misfortunate events happened to Matt Clarke, i soon began to realise that he was destined to be framed for the murders of the 4 other characters. However, i was caught unaware by the other twists to the plot and found myself contemplating what would happen next. I did find the narrative hard to follow at times, however, switching back and forth in time often, i found it hard to keep up. There were also a few points which i found confusing, and these came towards the end of the narrative as i found everything ame together rather quickly and i struggled to keep tabs on what was occuring. I was particularly confused by the man eating snake statue which seemed to come out of nowhere in an otherwise somewhat logical plot. I also found myself wondering what happened to Tarek despite it being explained in the comic and I was also confused by Max's role in the whole thing, but Bharathi explained this to me and i think i understand it more clearly now. Howver, clever little details similar to a Pixar plot kept the narrative believable as the gun we see in the beginning is used by Dr. Day and the Axe which Craig grabs is later usd by Dr. Day as well. Overall Bad Kids Go To Hell was definitely my kind of comic and i wouldn't hessitate picking up another Bad Kids Go To Hell comic.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Kill Bill Vol 1 Review...



Kill Bill Vol 1 follows the protagonist called 'The Bride,' a member of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, lead by her lover 'Bill.' Upon realising she was pregnant with Bill's child, she decided to escape her life as a killer. She fled to Texas, met a young man, and on the day of their wedding was gunned down by an angry and jealous Bill. Four years later, she wakes from a coma, and discovers her baby is gone. She decides to seek revenge upon the five people who destroyed her life and killed her baby. The saga of Kill Bill Volume I begins. I had previously seen both volumes of Kill Bill, but it was a while ago so i couldn't completely remember the film. But watching it again reminded me of why i loved the films so much the first time around. There doesn't seem to be any rules in the world of Kill Bill, at any time you could switch to black and white, 2d animation, go forwards or backwards in narrative, and hear unusual choices of sound effects and soundtrack. But yet Kill Bill works so well in an era where mashup genres aren't so uncommon. A big element of Kill Bill as in many other Tarantino films is the gore and Kill Bill definitely lives up to the expectations of a Tarantino film with overexhaggerated fight scenes and wounds/deaths, Kill Bill is almost a live action anime film, possibly what Tarantino was going for given the kung fu fighting style of the film. Kill Bill definitely isn't a film for the faint hearted but it seems once you've watched the first film, you're left longing for the second. I find with Kill Bill despite being lost in the narrative, finding it hard to position yourself in the timeline events, the film works really well in keeping its audience hooked, i feel this is done by it's visual aesthetic and keeping the audience wondering what Tarantino will do next. I'd definitely recommend the sequel, especially if you loved the first film, it doesn't disappoint and definitely continues where Tarantino left off.




Lost in La Mancha Review...



Lost in La Mancha follows filmmaker Terry Gilliam who finally gets his opportunity to create his dream film he labored for a decade, 'The Man Who Killed Don Quixote'. Assembling his film crew, he prepares his production in what promises to be the biggest budgeted feature film using only European financing. However for all his creativity and enthusiasm, the film is immediately plagued with an improbable series of disasters that threaten to doom the film. Lost in La Mancha is a documentary showing that there isn't always a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, and shows how some projects do fall through. It shows how Terry Gilliam was over ambitious with his project,a nd although there was an element of bad luck at fault, it seems his preparation for the project was lacklustre and things weren't thought through properly in each stage of the pipeline. One of the main problems that occurs is getting the actors in, and i feel that Terry Gilliam was way too ambitious with the casting on this one, after all, an actor like Johnny Depp was never going to have a flexible schedule. We also see how the most rational member of the crew, the assistant director, is the first to go despite seeming to be he only crew member to have his head screwed on properly. I really enjoyed this documentary because it was a great insight into what can go wrong during filmmaking and it's not often we get to see something like that, it's often overlooked by successful projects. After watching the documentary, however, i do feel that the film should be made because the story is very interesting which is hard to come by in a CG-consuming era. Will Terry Gilliam be the man to bring it to our screens, well it doesn't look like it after being turned down for funding and the project falling through again. What have i learned from this documentary, stay within your boundaries and don't be over ambitous, be well prepared and never skip stages in the pipeline, and stick to a realistic budget.


The Fly (1958) Review...



The Fly (1958) is the original version of a scientist experimenting with matter transference accidentally exchanging one arm and his head with that of a fly which was in the transfer chamber. Although the film is very relevant to our unit of narrative and was definitely worth watching for its Sci-Fi B-movie context, I found The Fly a very slow film. It's horror and sci-fi genres were clear to find but i didn't find they had your typical conventions of either and therefore i didn't enjoy them as much i would usually enjoy a horror or sci-fi film. I found the story was more about the female character and mystery of what happened than being a full n sci-fi or horror film like we're used to. However, it was helpful to see the kind of effects and standards of these 50s sci-fis because that's something we need to approachin our own retro trailers. One particular part that stood out in the film was the scene at the end with the scientist being caught in a spider's web, which seemed extremely cheesy and looked awful to the effects of today's standards. I found most of the more 'horrific' scenes in the film to actually be funny and cheesy, but i suppose that's because our horrors have changed vastly since the 50s. Overall, The Fly wasn't my kind of film but i would like to see the 1986 remake after what some of the guys said to me, it sounds like a better rendition of the story to me, definitely worth checking out.


Thursday, 23 September 2010

Western - Kung Fu Fighters Influence Map...





Here's my influence map for my Western Kung Fu Fighters 80s cartoon...



- Shanghai Knights has an influence because of Jackie Chan being a kung fu fighter/martial arts and dressing as a cowboy.

- Kung Fu was an american tv series set in a western town with a kung fu fighter who had fled from his home in eastern europe, you can see the clear connections with my western kung fu fighters genre from the narrative alone.

- Bruce Lee is a kung fu/martial arts icon and therefore he could have an influence on my character design to show the element of kung fu fighting.

- I found a nice image of for concept designs for cowboys which i liked the style of and could influence a style of my own with digital painting.

- Shanghai Noon is the sequal to Shanghai Knights and has Jackie Chan once again dressed as a cowboy but this time it has the bonus elements of being a western film as well, this will surely influence my storyline and narrative.

- I found a digital painting for the game red dead redemption showing what looks like a fierce and menacing cowboy, this could influence the design of my villain.

- Another icon would be John Wayne, arguably the most famous cowboy, similar to bruce lee, this will influence my design because he is a well known figure and has a memorable look.

- Another shot from Red Dead Redemption shows a character looking towards a western town, i felt this image influenced the surroundings and environment of my story.

- Karate Kid is a classic kung fu/martial arts film and the story is based in america, although its not youre stereotypical western environment, it follows that idea of Kung Fu in the west.

- Kung Fu Panda has some really nice character design and is really influential because it has taken familiar animals and turned them into kung fu fighters.

- Kill Bill contains a lot of martial arts and although its a very violent film and in no way suitable for a childrens cartoon, the characters really stand out.

- Looney Tunes will always have a big influence in the world of animation and therefore Yosemite Sam had to be included in my influence map.

- The last two images are beautiful concept designs for environments i could use for the story, we have a typical western saloon and a beautiful chinese monastery/temple, both stereotypical places for each genre.

Postmodernism Brief...



On Wednesday we had our first theory lesson which gave us an introdutction to our new unit, Postmodernism. We received our first brief which asks us to produce a 2,000 word essay abut a particular example of contemporary visual culture. We must then discuss ways in which theories of postmodernity might be used to interpet its meaning. Using the lecture programme, we must make reference to the key ideas ebncountered. This essay must adhere to the criteria and guidelines for essay writing, including citation of information and a disclaimer form stating the work produced is our own.

Character Design Workshop... Week 1...

In our first week of character design, we were introduced to Justin who will be teaching us during the workshops. This is an exciting prospect as he's work for the likes of Disney and i'm really looking forward to learning a lot of techniques and skills for character design. Alan introduced us to the brief and afterward Justin introduced himself, we saw a video giving examples of heroes, villains and sidekicks, mainly from Disney but some other companies were added in as well. In villains we had strong powrful characters like Jafar from Aladdin and Ursula from The Little Mermaid who are strong examples of famous cartoon villains. In the heroes section we had a few princes who are well-known examples of heroes from Disney's fairytale adaptations. We also had Shang-Li from Mulan who has a very different design, he's more powerful and broader in design, showing a lot of muscle. With sidekicks, we had the likes of ...



After watching some great examples of character design in each section, we discussed the conventions or commonalities found in each section ie shape, colour etc. We were then drawn two traditional playing cards each to randomise two different words, similar to our brief. Combining these words together we were asked to do drawings on an A3 page representing how we'd draw this character. I got 50 foot Elvis as my randomised character and i started off by drawing tyhe stereotypical things i'd associate with the character. The main problem i had was showing that he was 50 foot. Justin explained that i would have to use perspective to show that he was so tall. Even afterwards, i was still struggling with getting the perspective right so Justin showed me that by making the perspective seem as though we were looking up at the character, implied he was so tall. He done this by using a triangular shaped body, starting with a wide stance at the feet, going to a point at the head. after this i had no problems getting the perspective right and i was able to take the elements from the images i had previously drawn to create a '50 foot Elvis' design. In my final design I had a small microphone to further imply his height and i also added ripped clothes as though he had grown, similar to the Hulk. I would have like to use some stereotypical Elvis poses to further emphasise the character, but overall i was really happy with my first week as i thought it would be something i would really struggle on and therefore not enjoy as much as i did. I'm really looking forward to the next workshop and building a portfolio/bible documenting the development of my character designs.

Character Design Brief...



After receiving our first brief for the Narrative unit on Monday, we received our second brief on Tuesday for the Character Design unit to run along side Narrative. Although i'm not necessarily strong in the area of character design, i'm reallly looking forward to learning a lot of techniques and skills from this unit and develop one of my weaker areas. In this brief we are asked to produce a 'Character Desin and Animation Bible' for a rebooted eighties saturday cartoon. This encompassing source book will contain a synopsis of the show, expression sheets and turnarounds for the three characters we have been asked to deign; The Hero, The Villain and The Sidekick. Typically, these 1980s cartoons comprise of multiple genres or a 'mash up' of ideas. Therefore we will receive a random set of genres by drawing two traditional playing cards and matching them to a list of randomised genres. The two genres i received were Western + Kung Fu Fighter = Western Kung Fu Fighters. Straight away people were connecting this with the films Shanghai Knights and Shanghai Noon starring Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson. This will definitely be a good starting point and a big influence in my ideas. In this 10 week project will will be assigned different tasks to be completed by the next week's class and this will slowly increase our understanding of the topic and build up our 'animation bible'.

Maya Tutorials Week 1 - Ace Venture Lip Sync...

video

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

B-Movies from the 1950s...

- The fear of nuclear war with the Soviet Union, along with less expressible qualms about the effects of radioactive fallout from America's own atomic tests, energised many of the era's genre films. Science fiction, horror, and various hybrids of the two were now of central economic importance to the low-budget end of the business. Most down-market films of the type, like many of those produced by William Alland at Universal, provided little more than simple diversion. But they were genres whose fantastic nature could also be used as cover for mordant cultural observations often difficult to make in mainstream movies.
- Two well finance films of 1951, 'The Thing from Another World' and 'The Day the Earth Stood Still', are often mentioned as vanguard examples. The Thing proved that some money could be made by 'science fiction' that preyed on current fears symbolised crudely by any preposterous moster. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) treats conformist pressures and the evil of banality in haunting allegorical fashion. Even major genre mills at times came out with challenging films. Produced on a "triffling budget" by Katzman, The Man who Turned to Stone (1957), 'uses the physical transfer of the life force from one class to another as a metaphor for economic exploitation'. Among the most disturbing was The Amazing Colossal Man (1957), 'a King Kong for the atomic age,' it is both a monster movie that happens to depict the horrific effects of radiation exposure and 'a ferocious cold-war fable that spins Korea, the army's obsessive secrecy, and America's post war growth into one fantastic whole.'

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

What is a B-Movie?

- A B-movie is a movie which is made on a relatively low budget, when compared with major feature films. The B-movie genre is quite diverse, ranging from cheesy science fiction movies to taut modern thrillers.
- The B in B-movie is a refernce to the B-movie's traditional place on a double feature marquees. Originally, B-movies were developed to have something to fill the second slot in a double feature, allowing theatre patrons to feel like they were getting their money's worth. A B-movie would be made with lesser known actors and significantly less money, generating a film which would consistently generate a return on investment, thanks to being paired with a major feature film.
- The double feature started to decline in the 1950s, as films became longer, but the B-movie endured. The term came to be used more generally to refer to any low budget film, with B-movies appearing in a range of genres including westerns, science fiction, thrillers, horror, fantasy, exploitation and mystery. The B-movie became associated with a campy style, wooden acting, and crude sets and costumes, creating a distinctive look and feel.
- Many actors and actresses got their start in B-movies, while others went on to make their careers in the B-movie world. B-movies have also been used as a proving ground for directors, producers, and other people who work in the film industry, and some even went on to become major hits. A number of B-movies have also achieved cult classic status, with fans being attracted to the cheesiness of these films.
- In the modern day, some people refer to low budget films which lack the sobriety of independent films as B-movies. Some people actually enjoy working on such projects, taking it as an opportunity to be silly and have a good time, although such films can also be serious in their own right.
- Westerns were a Golden Age B-movie staple, while low budget sci-fi and horror films became more popular in the 1950s.
- Individual B-movies were often ignored by critics.
- John Wayne and Jack Nicholson first became established in B-movies.

Narrative Briefing...



So Yesterday was the first day of our second year, which subsequently meant a new brief. I already knew the unit was called narrative which sent alarm bells immediately; i knew i'd have to be focused and ready for the task in hand. Fortunately, the task is a group based project which means i am able to learn from the other guys as well as bring my own skills and knowledge to the group. I've always enjoyed working in groups because it gives me more incentive to work harder as i'm working for the rest of the members, not just for myself. Anyway, Alan went through the brief with us, and i've now had the opportunity to go through it at my own leisure. The Asks us to work as a group (studio) to produce a 2 minute trailer for a retro B-movie that will be entered into our own film festival to be adjudged by a panel of lecturers. The topic of our B-movie was based on a random retro movie title created by drawing 4 cards at random. Our group received the title "ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT ALIEN(S) FROM TOYLAND". The trailer must be in a 16:9 ratio and we are asked to submit 3 stills from the production for marketing purposes. Along with this, we are required to produce the usual pipeline of work from pre-prodction to production to post-production and an update on the development of our project can be seen on our own personal blogs or over at http://voidcanvas.blogspot.com/ where you can see our studios diary for the creative development of the project...