It's Fresher's week at the University of Chester, and while everyone else is off out on the town meeting other students and drinking to excess, I am starting work on one of the upcoming projects, even though it won't actually be set for another two weeks . Maybe it's the fact that I'm a mature student living off site and commuting to campus every day, or the fact that since I finished my last course in June, I have been looking forward to getting started again.
This year I am starting a BA in Graphic Design, joining on the Second Year of the course; having just completed a two year Foundation Degree in Graphic Design.
So why have I started researching for a project that has not yet been set?
One of the projects this year is Motion Design, and I have it on good authority that it will include some use of a program called Dragonframe.
Last year on my previous course I could choose one brief from a possible 12, and I decided to tackle the one that would require an element of motion design, even though it was completely alien to me. After researching animation techniques, and methods of producing motion digitally, I began researching the work of Ray Harryhausen who was responsible for such movies as Clash of the Titans and The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad, and began to realise that Harryhausen was the connecting factor to a lot of films I enjoyed in early childhood, and although they employed a technique called Dynamation (or Super Dynamation) the effects were a form of stop-motion animation. There's just something captivating by the way that a stop-motion character moves on screen.
"There's something to this stop-motion thing" I thought and began looking deeper into it.
Many films I already owned and loved were created by stop-motion and I had necer put two and two together. The Nightmare Before Christmas, Wallace and Gromit, ParaNorman, The Boxtrolls, Coraline, and even a recent favourite, Kubo and the Two Strings were all achieved wholly, or mostly by stop-motion.
I had to give this technique a try.
While my skills weren't quite up to the challenge of creating characters suitable for stop-motion from scratch, I decided I wanted to give the concept a try so I jumped in with Lego instead. Lego is a great starting point as it simplifies the characters, movements and sets into the most fundamental shapes and allows you to focus on what it takes to capture the images required for creating a stop-motion animation without having to worry too much about everything else.
I produced a 1min video that expressed visually the audio from an RSA (Royal Society of Arts) competition brief. The end result was rough around the edges, and I did throw in a few other methods of animation to get across things that would have been beyond the scope of the Lego, but I'm proud with the outcome. The process taught me so much, and came with a run of late nights usually ending at about 5am, but it was all worth it.
I used Dragonfame to do the image capturing, Photoshop for image editing, Illustrator to create the other animated effects, and After Effects to put everything together.
So, this year while everyone else is out partying, I'm here looking into the principles of animation and motion design, figuring out how I can create a more expressive character suited to stop-motion animation, and basically rewatching a lot of films I like in a whole new light.
Now that I have started down the rabbit hole a bit further, I have begun to look at the work of Phil Tippett who worked on the original Star Wars triliogy, RoboCop, and many more using a form of stop-motion (Go-Motion) that captures motion blur to give the characters a more realistic presence on screen. His stuff is amazing!
I can't say at this stage whether the film I produce this year will be any good, or even work out; but I'm determined to give it my best shot.