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Helen Capewell
OCA Learning Log
Student Number: 522802
Degree: Illustration
Current Level: 2

Flick-Books & Animated Gifs

Exercise 4 - Loosely playing within the genre of action movies, create some basic flick-book, QuickTime or animated gif animations that involve chases, shoot-outs, or any other staple of the action film.

I loved the idea of creating a super short animation. As a huge fan of animation I had once wished of being an animator; I was quite set on it, in fact. Consuming the Disney classics, Looney Tunes, Scooby Doo and all the other good stuff throughout my childhood and beyond, I was pretty obsessed with it. Aardman studios was actually one of the studios I dreamt of working at, Chicken Run and the brilliant Creature Comforts just blew my mind. Stop motion is incredible for me, and seeing how you can make something drawn or modelled come to life, literally! always inspired me.

Skip forward many years, as a massive fan and consumer of animation, wanting to do animation is still in the bucket list, but for myself and more for fun rather than career choice. I just very quickly learnt how much work was actually involved, and did I fully understand it all? I found that whilst I loved the idea of doing it, I just always gravitated towards pictures. It seemed more achievable to create a book on my own than a whole animation, and now that I have discovered the absolute joy of graphic fiction, I feel that I'm almost able to make an animation without knowing how to correctly time the frames etc.

I've made tiny gifs before, so on some level I am familiar with making something move in frames. I have also attempted to learn from a few legends through the content they share online, such as Aaron Blaise and BAM Animation (YouTube Channel). Watching videos was one thing, but doing was still something so far away. It didn't matter how many times I watched a video, I still couldn't fully grasp the frames per second and how that actually came into action when putting together a full sequence. What I would absolutely love is the opportunity to be in conversation with a professional animator, for the in person workshop so I could watch and ask questions when they came. As this is something I don't believe would ever happen, I decided to watch peoples work and pause for each frame.

James Baxter has a few amazing hand drawn drafts on his YouTube channel from scenes he worked on during his career. I love all styles of animation, but the magic of hand drawn (hand made) will always be number one, so seeing his work from the very early stages is incredibly cool.

An example of one very short animation that I replicated:

The original animation from James Baxter

My copy made on Photoshop:

I found this to be a very useful way to understand the frames. It challenged me to think about the timing between each frame, how it slows in and eases out. What I loved most is that it did not require much to make it happen. Would I be able to do this on paper? Probably not, but with programmes like Photoshop and Procreate having the ability to do hand drawn animation, its pretty amazing and very accessible, albeit very basic as well.

During researching for this exercise, I actually discovered a video that might possibly be the recipe I needed to fully grasp the timing Frames Per Second. I think my knowledge is there for it, however when it comes to putting it to practice I feel very lost for it. This video kind of gave the perspective that I needed (the closest without 1-1 training), and maybe in this moment it just clicked for me.

For this exercise, creating more of a scene sounded like a great challenge, and an excuse to further my own personal growth! What my story is going to be is yet to be decided, so I think I needed to find inspiration to get a feel of how I can put a sequence together in short.

Given that the exercise specifically requests an action sequence inspired by the likes of James Bond, my mind shot to some good old content from way back.

I remember many years ago there was the trend of stickman animations, Stick Death or Stick Figure Fights. After some digging I found a few original pieces that I thought was so cool at the time. The smooth, well choreographed, fight scenes along with the simple sound effects, again, seemed so achievable! I recall spending hours on making my own, using... drum roll... PowerPoint!! Hilarious to think about now, but I was so chuffed at making a tiny clip of stickmen running around.

There is something so cool in Xiao Xiao animation, it's like John Wick of the Stick world! It's longer than what would be required but the simplicity in its structure could be valuable, in the way that it uses the frame of the screen as its setting to show a sequence. It is also really great reference if wanting to think of choreography for a possible fight scene. I still have no idea what my story would be but including this in the research certainly brought back memories, and who knew it would become useful one day!

Jackie Droujko Is an incredible Character designer whom I have followed for a few years and have been a long fan of. She also makes her own short animated films, where her awesome design and illustration skills shine through with great narrative. I like the way each scene change is pieced together below, it feels simple yet really well designed making it feel fleshed out.

I wanted to further my research on super short animations, specifically action focused, and came across a few cool pages on Behance. Typically I would use Behance for design inspiration, though have found myself on the website seeing other awesome projects from people for illustration and now animation. This is one of those moments. I was pleasantly surprised by the design aspect and quality of these animation projects.

Duo Fight, directed by Gerardo Gonzalez and David Martinez brings together a very small team of creators, Migual Andel and Daniel Cuervo in design, Daniel Cuervo and Gerardo Gonzalez on animation and Diego Caceres on Music Design. The artwork for this is incredibly dynamic, the colours and style is perfect for the scene, and overall it feels very well put together. I liked how they presented the piece using "concept" drawings that represent the final styling of the animation. I like how they have shown key frames as a storyboard and then giving examples of the animation in its early stage through looping gifs. They have really created a narrative in just the presentation, giving a variety of stills that teases the final animation. Even the use of typography strengthens the overall quality of the film. There's a retro fight feel to the visuals, using lighting and texture in the concept art which feels like a street fighter game in some aspects, perhaps it's the use of gradients in the font.

The Sun and The Snake is another good example that I discovered on Behance. This time being a mini series, each short is a continuation giving a "previously" aspect to catch you up on what has happened so far.

Once I had collected enough animation inspiration, I thought it might also be useful to see live action short films. I wanted to get a feel for the composition in live action, how many different shots are there and how do they create a narrative around "action". Much of the results that came through in respect to action included fighting, it is basically at the core of any of these films, as well as a crime and a "chase" of some kind. The thought of breaking one of those up actually intimidated me. They use triple the amount of shots in a very short space of time, and which just feels overwhelming!

A short film that caught my attention wasn't exactly a typical "action" film, however there was certainly a change of pace during the middle which I thought gave enough of a burst in variety of shots that could match an action film, it is just that the subject was not doing crazy dynamic moves like a fight scene.

The Wait is a minute long film set in the protagonist's kitchen. The opening scene sets the story off by first introducing the microwave in which the protagonist puts food in and turns it on. The wait begins during the time of heating food, and how the protagonist's wait becomes the action sandwich. I really like tempo of this film, I love the use of different shots to clearly show the narrative of the story. It uses no words as no words are needed with the perfectly composed shots deliberately speaking for themselves. We see time ticking, but time is stuck. The sound design is also very well crafted as it fades the ticking of a clock into background noise, or perhaps shifting it as an inner sound that the protagonist uses to imagine the drumming. The protagonist enters a zone of his own, quickly using the chopstick as drum sticks whilst he starts drumming on the dinning table, the scene change from kitchen to stage spotlight is flawlessly executed. I just love how every frame captures the energy and passion as we are teleported to a live show. There are 26 different camera angles squeezed into this scene, each flickering past as the intensity of the drum play rises. It feels fast, responding to the music.

I very quickly pencilled each shot in to a storyboard to help process how such a film had been shot to create just one minute of film. For me, this felt masterful in the way of building a short story. It is a very simple yet effective narrative with not a great amount of complication in the arc. After watching several times, I wondered if this structure could be applied to my own short animation, or was I getting ambitious?

Now I was starting to feel ready to create my own short story. I liked the idea of it focusing on one character like The Wait. I liked the idea of it being set in a familiar surrounding like a room of a house, and that an interaction with an everyday object could be the start. It would be great to have a scene change where it goes from reality to imagined as the main characters "gets in the zone" - perhaps it is an exercise for training that becomes more combat with people in a dream. Getting in the zone can be applied to a variety of activities, activities that feels mediocre or meditative to the individual with the ability to shut out the world noise, like painting or dancing for example. How could I turn something like this into a John Wick blood bath?

I started to brainstorm the idea. I looked around my space to see what could be the drum to this action. My space is where I do all of my creative work, it has the easel, painting equipment, computer and so on. Whilst I often have dreams that are action packed with fights, chases and other crazy weird things, my reality is not (thankfully). I realised that, without just following the basics of a typical action story, I didn't feel that I knew where to begin in creating something along the lines of a James Bond action, as I said - Just watching short clips was overwhelming enough. I wanted to be a little bit different with my subject, which is why I feel drawn to The Wait. So I kept it closer to my world, however still thought about adding a bit of choreographed action.

I thought about an idea with the inner battle during the painting process. When frustration takes over as the vision doesn't always match the ability, where size of space can sometimes feel as cramped as the small canvas. There is something of a rollercoaster when painting, but the feeling is far more dramatic than the reality. Personally, I sometimes have the urge to break out into performance rather than sit in front of the canvas. In my stillness, I drift into a day dream where my space becomes bigger, empties the clutter and I have the space to spread my wings so to say. I imagine painting larger than what I am currently able to do. Using my body to stretch far and wide with paint dripping everywhere because it just does not matter how messy the space gets. Everything is a dance, but there's frustration channelled inside as if there is a communication issue between you and the canvas. I thought about this and in the same way as the Drummer in The Wait, I pictured this being the zone that intensifies yet transforms into something of a more positive energy that is inspired, clearing away the blockages.

There is a real push and pull as an artist, working on just one painting can be a huge journey. Not only this, but you can sometimes pigeon hole yourself into a box that becomes an expectation. It's driven by self, yet feels like it's the world that has created it and pushing you further in. Do you want to paint this? Is it even coming from you? If you could, what would you do differently? I thought this could be an interesting plot to work with, and to visualise what those feelings are. This was going to be the action sandwich.

Using the Wait as inspiration to the overall structure of the narrative, I started scribbling some visuals. The idea seemed complex, but if I could break down each "shot" then adding the motion could be easier. I reflected back on the beginning of Jackie's Bang Bang film, and saw how each scene change came with just a few gestures that built the motion. I gathered that, if I could visualise what these feelings were into a series of different still images showing gestures and actions, then perhaps by putting them into a sequence with small animation, it could create an intense uncertainty of what the artist was creating until a big reveal at the end. Maybe it would be enough?

With my written notes scribbled, I had a visual in my mind of what I wanted to do, so I acted it out a few times without the camera on me. It helped to put it into perspective of how it could transition and become a sequence. With each act out, I would add to my notes. I thought about camera movements beside my own movements and how they can add to the dynamic action, but was apprehensive on how to execute them. Where would the camera be throughout, when will it follow, when will it zoom in and out. Of course I needed to think of the key frames that would be vital to the story. Looking at The Wait, the early clips showing the microwave, the chopsticks in hand and the clock, are all key frames to the story.

I hear often from animators that following reference is important, this does not necessarily mean the reference found online, but rather your own reference. Filming yourself doing the action you want to achieve in the animation. Based on the video "timing and spacing" linked above, I now understand another reason why recording yourself doing the action is useful. It's a great way to work out the timing of a gesture. How long do you need for a particular movement. It's also a great way to see the anticipation that happens before any action.

Before getting into the "animation" rough, I sketched some ideas on Procreate, kind of key frames I was thinking, and how I would move through the scene. I placed these into a very slow gif so it gave an incredibly loose idea of what I was aiming for.

I also made tiny thumbnails of the idea roughly drawn on loose paper. At this point I was debating whether to start again with a new idea that would actually answer the brief, however having read back on my work here so far, I feel compelled to finish this artist vs boundaries idea.

I was feeling confident after the Procreate montage so made a start on Photoshop. As I lack the real skills/experience of animation, working pose to pose seemed a bit out of my league in this, however, animating straight ahead also came with its own dangers.

I had used the "straight ahead" method in the below gif that shows the possible opening scene to my short film. The scenes were not overly complicated and depended more on the stillness of the background to create an atmosphere. As I approached the last scene of the gif which I cut short to share here, I was starting to realise that working pose to pose would be far more helpful as the scenes got a little more complex with the gesture I wanted.

(sorry if it doesn't play on loop!)

I had the initial leaning forward and painting shot which was showing a calm side to the character. From here, I knew that I wanted the character to sit back and look at the work. I also know that this would be the start of the "meltdown" and so I would then want the character to sink forward with their head down, their hand will be on the forehead. So technically, I could draw out those different movements, and then fill in the gaps with in between movements that get from a to b.


I made this exercise huge. Bigger than it should. Like I think I have gone incredibly far away from what the exercise requires, which has been a niggling thing in the back of my head. I'm going through the waves of wondering whether to finish this idea or not. It's not the action like James Bond, there is no chase or actual fight, so do I carry on? The reason I feel to carry on is purely down to the time I have already cost on the work so far. I really have gotten caught up in creating something so much more than what is needed, which usually I wouldn't mind but in other occasions I at least stay within the brief, this one has been a wild journey! Bigger than the assignment!

Anyways, I made a colour sketch of a moment where the artist prepares to swing paint from her brush to the wall. I chose to draw the moment just before the big movement. The background I decided to keep simple as it really was just a reference image. Give an idea of what the character could look like. Do I love it? Not really, it has cemented my feelings of abandoning this idea and sticking to the brief. I wanted the share the process and my thoughts throughout this exercise, up to the point of changing what I had planned.

I would very grateful to receive some advice on this exercise 😰 🙏🏻 Is this a good start on something, or have I totally wasted time?



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