Hi everyone, it’s been a while hasn’t it. Well I’ve had numerous problems which resulted in my absence from uni for a while. I’m back now to work on my FMP (Final Major Project) and other projects.
So over the period of time to decide there were a few ideas that roamed around in my head on what I wanted to do.
- Due to developing depression and anxiety, I wanted to try and make an animation that covered the feelings and chaotic thoughts that have been in my head. The idea revolved around symbolic and figurative figures such as storms, a wall and vast, empty landscapes to accommodate these feelings. In the end however, it would have potentially become too confusing and complicated to do. Something I actually needed to avoid because attempting a complex peace was one of the factors of me developing depression in the first place. The investment could have also been more self destructive as well.
- A stop motion using figurines, something I’ve wanted to do overall it’s one of the reasons I started out to become an animator. The problem with the idea is that it would limit the creativity options in a course that demands originality and unique concepts. That is completely fair enough, so I have this in reserve as a last resort.
- An animated sequence in traditional two dimensional form. I want to develop and broaden out my skill set options and try to create scenes and motions for future projects and potential endeavours.
I have discussed it with my tutor and I have come up with making a simple animation, well, simple in comparison to the usual stuff I make or plan to make. The animation will involve a Gargoyle, for now I am not entirely sure what to do. Hopefully something good, or great. Something that shouldn’t become one of my usual tangents that I try and make something that will stand out. From a modelling stand point a Gargoyle is a straightforward puppet to build, being only grey in colour. This means I can make one much quicker than any other possible ideas I had, and not have to worry about colour merge and smudges.
Gargoyles have two functions when used on buildings other than display. The more practical being that they can be integrated into the rooftop’s irrigation plumbing or ledge drainage and become a waterspout during heavy rain fall, in order to prevent damage to the buildings they were built onto. More traditionally as part of the design and cultural intent of Gargoyles is for them to ward off ghosts and other malicious entities. Today they are more popular as garden and room ornaments, the whole guardian part of it appeals to the story making aspect and has a good amount of possibilities.
For styles and design aspects, the most notable exemplars to me are Nick Park and the late Ray Harryhausen. They are the first names that are likely to come up in conversation on the subject or a search. If I were to have performed an alternative though, I would follow the card shadow puppetry of Lotte Reiniger. However, this involves a technique and form I still need practice in with the materials, lead, to keep the rigidity. Also when I practiced with them before, I had to deal with the card becoming adhesive through static energy to my fingers and ruining the shot. So I am focusing purely on clay stop motion puppets. For all of my information on stop motion , please follow the link to my older post on the subject.
Before I try to write out the plot I want to try and create the character and the other creatures surrounding them. So I have tried some of sketches for the faces and body stance:
With the initial concept I wanted to try and create a Gargoyle with goat like features and large, goblin based ears. This is because I have quite often seen this type of gargoyle and we have ornaments of this type in my house.
Scribble test images, I’ve drawn a base facial structure and scribbled across them to try and create animalistic humanoid features, or demonic. I have performed the scribbles with my eyes closed to try and create a completely random set for chance. The first sketch ended up looking like a mix of Batman and Devilman, see below the images for comparison. I feel that the demonic appearance would make for a pretty scary creature for a villain or a dark minion, but I’m avoiding such things since it could make the animation more complicated than necessary. It looks more satanic than a Gargoyle and isn’t suitable.
With the second and third sketches, I tried to visualize something more comical and I saw features such as elongated noses. The image has ended up looking like a Japanese Tengu mask, the ending result also made it look rather creepy, unpleasant and seemed too far away from what a Gargoyle should look like. The images had so far had too much of an oriental appearance something I NEED to move away from.
The fourth image started developing a more ogre like appearance, so it ended up just stopping dead. However, the singular horn and lop sided look has given me a much better idea towards what I want from the Gargoyle’s design. The next 3 pretty much went nowhere as I was trying to explore other animal features that are usually used on Gargoyles. I was attempting to draw the more dog like statues, these scribble designs were unsuccessful.
The Go Nagai ultra-violence character Devilman, I ended up seeing the head wings in the scribble sketches first image. Again this added to the scary appearance, but I’m trying to avoid such looks and make something more appropriate for a general audience.
I want to try and make the Gargoyle a guardian type of creature, so I’ll try and create a body structure and face accordingly.
I drew three separate postures and body structure bases. (From left to right) The first makes it look more hunched and apelike, the emphasis feels a bit much on the upper body and could imbalance the armature when it is constructed. The second dons a more feral and prowling body language, ready to spring into action, but a little on the villainous side. The legs have ended up a little too long and would be imbalanced and can render a Marquette difficult to pose or even move. It is the same with the final image, which also has the problem of leaning too far back. These look good on paper, but for armatures, they will require more time and experience, which I don’t have.
I’ve come to a decision about the plot. I want to create a small story piece which portrays the Gargoyle as a guardian of unseen beings within a city centre space, one of the small creatures is almost spotted and the Gargoyle intervenes.
These are part of the finalised designs of the Gargoyle I’m aiming towards an intimidating, yet protective look, kind of like a bouncer or a security guard. There to protect and keep order. The first design has ended up with a similar appearance to an ogre or a demon. I was experimenting with a larger jaw line.
This was the start of what I had in mind for the creature that the Gargoyle rescues, a small rubbish creature. I wanted it to look cute and curious, Im had some initial thoughts from the Jawa’s out of Star Wars. I also played with the thought of anthropomorphic characters such as mice and rats, but overall I want to make the little creature seem just as mysterious.
I was heading for the same problem I did last time, I was aiming for something too big and complicated to do within a short space of time. So I’m going for something really simple in comparison, yet will have enough content to fill out plenty of time for an animated sequence. I’m still playing with the Guardian Gargoyle theme, but in a more comical sense. A Gargoyle that scares off a bunch of Pigeons, but then protects a left over egg from the elements. It’s going to be more lighthearted and just a simple laugh along for people to watch. I’m going to aim for more comical looking character designs.
Final design aspects in colour for the Gargoyle face, I’m trying to make him look old and/or grumpy. I even tried to give him the boggle eyed look of flat faced dog breeds such as Pugs and Boston Terriers.
Set Design and Construction:
I had a really simple vision for the Gargoyle’s mount. The corner of a building, overlooking an unseen city-scape. Something that can be quickly and easily built in a short span of time and still have the desired effect of looking like a real structure. After observing a few buildings, I am going for the appearance of brickwork and sandstone.
I’m going with it because it will mean less fiddling with the little details of bricks, but also simplifies the overall structure of the set. Below in the sketches, you will see how I want to make a three piece corner, for structural strength and easy transportation and construction. There will be a ledge for the Gargoyle to sit on, I may attempt to construct a support strut to make a solidified foundation. Who knows, but lets give it a shot.
Material-wise, I’m using polystyrene slabs. It’s lightweight, can be molded or cut into shape easily enough and it is easily replaceable if need be. It also bares the detailing of stone like designs, so long as the set is constructed properly, then it will also be incredibly durable. I’m also using balsa-wood and foam boards for the main skeleton of the set so that it all holds in place. For surface colouring, I’m using brick designed wallpaper for the lower half and painting the upper half and the ledge in sand based colours for the sandstone effect.
This ain’t advertising, the books were just there to weigh it down. Damn good trilogy though.
Maquette moulding and construction.
All of my maquette’s have an internal skeleton that is a mix of aluminium wire,wooden beads of varying sizes. The beads are covered with modelling putty (Games Workshop’s Green Stuff to be precise) to hold and set in place over 24 hours. Once the drying period is complete, the greened beads are coated with Fimo oven bake clay. I have been using this method due to the materials being cost effective, easy to replace and when done properly, have as much free movement as an all metal skeleton. Until such a time as my being able to afford such frames, this is my chosen means of craft.
To learn more of what I do for this method, click on the link:
The gap in the facial region of the head is intended as a slot for interchangeable faces in replacement techniques, this will require multiple faces to be made. I’m using Fimo as the base and also the point for the nose. Newplast will coat the rest in order to make for easy molding and replacement. For the Gargoyle’s physique, I wanted him to have a pot belly and seem incredibly old, hunching him over and carving cracks and lines into the body. During the sculpting process I accidentally scratched the surface off of the skin, I noticed that it made the Gargoyle looked weathered, so I began to lightly scrape the surface of the skin with a crafting knife. (I’ve also ended up stabbing and cutting my hands with that knife, so my sweat and blood has literally gone into this puppet.)
Due to their movement requirements being minimal, the pigeons will not be given an endo-skeleton. The only solid components will be the eyes and beaks. This makes them easier and quicker to make. The set has worked perfectly, it holds the weight of the Gargoyle and more. So long as the Marquette remains on the inner corner where I placed the brace, it can take the weight with no signs of strain. Naturally I am not going to force it down to see just how, otherwise that’s three days of work down the loo.
I have carved the surface of the maquette to give the gargoyle a more weathered appearance. Hopefully this won’t smooth over during the animating process. I have gently pressed upon it and it does not seem to do so at the moment. Time will tell as the animating proceeds.
Using the college to shoot is a bust, the space is way too small for me to work in, upto the point that I can’t get the camera close enough to take the shots I need, let alone being able to move the puppet. The room is also WAY too hot for the puppets, which are nearly melting due to the collective heat of the room itself and the lights I was using.
The replacement form of the faces is a no go too, the faces are all out of proportion and fall off too easily, I can also see the line were the faces are attached, this means that I’m going to have to remodel the facial structure entirely. This is a quick fix, I can have it solved within a day or two. I’m taking the set home to work there instead, I’ve got more room to work in and it is surprisingly less distracting than in the college building. I’ve learned that it is definitely too much for me to focus when I have several other people sharing a room with me. It was almost a complete disaster too when the legs snapped off and the hands fell apart due to a lack of internal frames. I was able to repair the damage and replace the concept of the legs, making goat like legs in place of the more bird like feet.
It has definitely proven to be easier to work from home, I have completed my animating and I am upto the editing phase. Oh joy, my favourite part. During the animating I did have to take short breaks to allow the puppets to cool, so in future am going to need a better Air Conditioning system or invest in a mini refrigerator unit (Ray Harryhausen used them during his film projects) in order to shorten the amount of time I need to wait before I can start animating again. There is definitely a lot I need to consider in future, such as improving the way I make most of my armatures. I’ll begin investing in more properly made armatures for purchase or even use lego technic sets for the ball joint mechanism type armatures. Or I can adapt my efforts into my cost effective puppets and increase their strength and more stiff regions such as the legs and arms. I have a few ideas in mind and I will add them to the blog at a later date. In the meantime I have other matters to be concerned with. Sadly the weathered skin has smoothed over in places, this is definitely due to the heat as well, so I’m going to have to look into maybe procuring a more durable material for character skin, or making less and adding clothing items.
Editing isn’t exactly my strong suit, due to there being so many features and and technical aspects to worry about. There’s also all of the bar space and placement of video and audio clips and to me an difficult amount of fiddling around with their length to improve duration, which means it can take a LOT longer for me to finish a project if I am expected to do more than puppetry and animating. I will need to stress this with any future clients, of course at the same time I will be investing in editing software so I can at least make the effort to improve these skills for my own projects. I’m not really going into the details of the whole process because for the life of me I had to perform trial and error (mostly error) tactics to make it all work. I am however pleased with the end result, the video has ended up being four minutes long, with the inclusion of the credit sequences, as opposed to my goal/prediction of up to three minutes. So this is a very pleasing result.
The Final Animated Piece:
So here it is, all uploaded and ready for viewing. This has been a really long and tough project to handle, despite its intended simplicity, something which would have gone more smoothly if I had been able to organise myself better and allow more time for smoother and improved animation, plus I need to invest in some software of my own. All things that I will continue in the future, because this is my life goal. I need to develop a habit of breaking my mental blocks sooner so I can push myself more and be prepared for whatever a client throws at me. I need to look into alternative and better quality materials to make my puppets more durable, so that they can last in the long run depending on their intended use. On another note, I will be looking into other set construction techniques and methods of easy assembly and disassembly. I am looking forward to improving my skills and getting my work out there into the world. Thanks for your time and I hope you enjoy what’s to come.