Today I have started a new course of animation. it’s an online course from Future Learn titled ‘Explore Animation’ it’s designed to take 4 weeks to complete dedicating 3 hours per week. It’s content should apply to all animators across all mediums and includes exercises and award winning shorts to study. It’s being presented by the NFTS (National Film and Television School) and is free to participate, optionally you can purchase a certificate after completing the course to add to a CV or resumé, or use it as evidence of Continuing Professional Development (CPD)
Manchester Animation Festival was a 3 day event taking place on the 17th, 18th and 19th of November 2015 at HOME in Manchester. Home is an excellent venue celebrating and hosting events for arts and culture, having a few bars and a restaurant inside and very friendly staff.
These photos are of the ground floor bar by the entrance, the restaurant also with another bar was on the 1st floor, and a smaller bar also available on the 2nd floor, toilets available on all floors.
I hadn’t any films eligible for submission this year but felt it very important to attend and fuel my passion for animation, hopefully kick starting a professional career. I booked my full festival delegate pass and planned what to see when new events and screening were announced on the website and socialmedia pages.
To avoid cramped, queueing rushes and disappointment you were able to email the festival management and request 3 event tickets per day for your pass, Wednesday 18th had already sold out of day passes so knew it was going to be busy, and unfortunately I was unable to pre-reserve a space for a Masterclass with Will Becher as it had already reached its delegate pre-allocation limit. Not to lose hope though as remaining tickets were released on the day for delegates or guests to reserve too, I’d just need to be quick.
I was successful in reserving all my other chosen events, and received confirmation that they had been booked and I could pick them up along with my pass when I reached the festival.
If I had to criticise this process I would say It would be great to be able to choose and reserve tickets for screening or events at the same time as when you buy your ticket online, like optional selections when ordering a take-away only. However I did greatly appreciate being able to reserve events and receive a written response email from staff confirming pre bookings, so I wouldn’t like to see it phased out next time if the technical limitations restrict an optional online pre booking feature being possible .
I faced train delays and cancellations every day of the event but didn’t miss any of the events I wanted to attend so things worked out, I walked from Manchester Piccadilly to HOME each day, it took me about 16 minutes or so at a brisk pace, I was able to jog back in 8 minutes one night to reach my last train at the silly time of 2207 (seriously Stoke-on-Trent, station should have later operating times so you can go to events in the major cities) although options are available to take a free metro shuttle bus to cut out some foot journey if 20 minutes of walking could pose an issue to you, I’ve been running and getting in better shape since June (and enjoy a good walk/run/cycle anyway) so this wasn’t a problem, although I did consider taking my bicycle before hand I don’t think I would have bothered with the hassle for day 2 or 3.
Nile and Arvin Ape from Jungle Tails on the Train
The venue itself was very nice inside and out, with a good selection of drinks and seating available, the restaurant was medium/moderately priced, and of good quality and cleanliness, it was also very efficient at the times I went too. I certainly had no issues with the food available.
Mmm-mmmm. That is a tasty burger. Vincent, ever have a HOME Beef Burger with Haloumi?
“This selection showcases the versatility and scope of contemporary animation. A mixture of techniques, storytelling and platforms this panorama of films represents the breadth of animation, to be enjoyed by all.”
It was a varied showcase of films of various length, style and medium, I’m not usually one for experimental animation without narratives and at least one tends to sneak into festival lineups and last ages sucking the souls and enthusiasm of it’s audience members but even “Scribbledub” has a sort of electronic musical charm and a sense not to have a long drawn out running time duration. Other films shown include the humorous public information film “I saw your willy” warning children about the perils of sharing intimate photos on their smartphone and the charming “Wise Man and His Beard”. In summary a good selection of films with topics from environmental statements to charming jokes.
Necking “Networking Nectar”
I then had a chance for coffee and networking before a Masterclass with Tomm Moore I’ve not seen a Tomm Moore film before but was certainly aware of Cartoon Saloon and have been very drawn into posters and dvd covers for his films Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea. It was an exceptionally interesting talk of how the films have been produced working with multiple studios around the world and I will definitely be checking his films out soon as they are very stunning and have a sprinkling of that charm of Disney and Ghibli films.
I spoke with Tom outside the event and he loved my show reel shirt, taking his own photo and sharing it on twitter to all his followers
Genius idea – this lad was walking around Manchester animation festival with his showreel playing on his tshirt pic.twitter.com/LqZhWyT0Y0
Presenting some of the best animated short films from around the world playing in competition at MAF 2015. These superbly crafted short films demonstrate the potential of the animated form. Amongst these films one will win the Short Film award at the first ever Manchester Animation Festival.
After more networking I headed to “skwigly showcase 1 existential enticements” which was a brilliant selection of films that have been featured on the skwigly website and podcast and more thoroughly enjoyable selection of shorts
An hours break for me with some food and chatter and the main event “Fellowship Award for Brian Cosgrove” Manchester Animation Festival is celebrating the productions and history of animations created in and around Manchester this year, most of today’s production companies started out working for Cosgrove Hall in some form with Mackinnon and Saunders, Factory and Flix amongst others hailing from Cosgrove Hall prior to its initial closure, the first fellowship award rightfully celebrating and looking back on the company and its many successful franchises such as Danger Mouse, Count Duckula, The Wind In The Willows and its impressive films, some of which sadly unavailable to purchase and view stuck in tv production company vaults and archives gathering dust and degrading. Luckily we get a glimpse of these rare films with clips sourced by MAF from the production companies displaying exceptional model puppets and animation with amazing life and expression that easily rivals the quality of feature films of 20 years later like coraline and corpse bride with many former employees and collaborators in attendance, sharing memories and stories it was a very special event indeed a “This is your life” for a pioneer that encouraged and nurtured creativity and has spawned a cultural creative boom of equally minded businesses in its wake that look set to continue with world renowned quality productions. Brian was evidentially emotional by the end when presented the award itself, a hand crafted steampunk style robotic bee model from Mackinnon and Saunders, as were his friends and coworkers he proudly refers to as the family.
Brian Cosgrove and Peter Saunders ‘on stage’
A short break between the next events to chat and network.
I manage to catch voice actor Mark Silk afterwards, who provides all the voices for my next production Jungle Tails for a great photo with the Arvin Ape puppet
A couple of Monkeys and a puppet
I knew I may have to leave early through the next event to catch the last train so decided to swap my original ticket to “the prophet” for “shorts in competition 2” knowing I could walk out having seen 8 or so shorts compared to missing the end of a feature, it was another good mix of films showing strong use of animation and emotion, I ended up hovering by the exit for the final film ‘the master’ till the credits then darted across the city for the train
Thoroughly excellent day and an impressive start to a brand new animation event.
It was a good talk with some nice clips and talk about their history and development and growth and future, with some great tips for new studios currently wanting to branch into tv productions.
I was desperate to try out the Gear VR headset that had been bought along to the event which had a 30 second demo animation they’re working on so leapt forward at the end of the talk to experience my first VR experience it was very cool and I didn’t experience any issues with focus or motion sickness as I spun around and looked up and down at the cartoon world around me, I did notice that i was looking at a screen as some sort of banding similar to tv scan lines were present but I can totally see myself being immersed in games and interactive experiences via VR headset in the not so distant future and would love to try out a gaming demo on a HTC Vive and Vituix omni set up.
Next up was How To Make Friends and animate people the art of crowdfunding a panel with staff from Aardman, Simons Cat and Kilogramme studios talking about how they’ve successfully utilised crowdfunding programmes like Kickstarter and Indiegogo to help create animations and products and the issues they’ve encountered and what to prepare for if you were to start your own campaign, it’s crossed many minds and spawns a few good questions from the audience by the end. It’s also eye opening for the companies running the campaigns to see what their audiences really want to see. Commonly it seems that the total amount asked for is much less than actually required to create and finalise the products, often requiring funding from elsewhere, Aardman put up half the cost of production for the new Morph series (and then agreed to match any funds additional raised passed the target)
Kilogramme, a studio I was not overly familiar with have produced a great series of films about innocent lies you tell children entitled “Tall Tales” it seems that across the board the average pledge is ~£40 so you should set any pledge tiers effectively, a lot of time is spent sending out physical goods and approximately half of all money raised goes towards physical goods too so manage and plan beforehand.
Some more gathering in the common areas between events before “A Masterclass with Will Becher” the first event to sell out I think. Will was able to skip a lot of the usual talk that accompanies such talks as an overwhelming majority of those in attendance were aware of all the basics of how stop-motion animations are made, so focused on how the specific puppets were made and the gigantic sets were planned, built and moved around the stages, lots of behind the scenes videos and comparisons were shown too including the always entertaining Aardman LAV’s (Live Action Videos) where the animators and directors practise the shot at hand before shooting with puppets, so always lots of over the top expressions and funny positions (I’ll always remember a LAV from creature comforts of animators pretending to be goats) Will brought along a lot of puppets, props and armatures, including one that could be passed around, was nice to finally meet Will Becher (amongst many more in Attendance) as I speak with Will online fairly often on Twitter and have been a fan of his short animations for a long time too
After having such a great time at Skwigly’s selection on day 1 I decided to go to “Skwigly showcase 2 fetching fascinations” I didn’t enjoy as many of films in this selection, Fulfilament was easily the strongest film, but there was many chuckle moments due to weirdness in the other films.
Was very hungry afterwards but only had a few minutes between the end of the screenings to the start of the eagerly anticipated first come first serve event “Skwigly animation quiz” so a mad dash outside to a jamaican takeaway for a jerk chicken salad, (sorry for any smell!) and returned to join some friends old and new to form a team to enter the quiz. Some very tough questions in some rounds “what are the full names of shaggy, hey arnold, postman pat and chucky from rugrats?” a picture round to decipher the cartoons from the cryptic character clues.
There was lots of excellent prizes on offer (even more prizes than participants actually) and the odd booby prize too (some Family Guy books, Percy Jackson lightning theif DVDs?)some of the gems up for grabs were signed box sets of Dangermouse and Count Duckula, art books and animation drawing training books, we racked our collective brains swap answers sheets, handed them in and waited, staring at the prize table. We didn’t win 1st place, but as people chose their own prizes from each table, my favoruite prizes were still available, and we came 2nd!
Look at our happy faces 😀 with Brian Cosgrove signed goodies
After some more networking it was onto my final event of the night and most anticipated of the festival “Making it in Manchester” a panel headed by representatives of Factory, Flix and Mackinnon and Saunders all companies producing world class work together in the Manchester area, a brief but detailed look into the work of each company, how they’ve grown taken on new projects, worked together and hopes for feature films made in the area in the future, Opportunities seems bright in the region for creative film making and as I sat in the front row of people, I left my showreel shirt playing on repeat as I feel the speakers almost addressing me personally as their gaze connects with mine as they present their work and talk about their projects, I had asked Phil Chalk from Factory if we could chat prior to the festival on linkedin and sure enough he took the time to talk with me in the cinema and in the meeting areas too with drinks, sadly I had to leave due to train times again but Phil invited me to the studio for a tour, and promised to send me some details of who I should write to to be considered for contracts, I’ll be in contact as soon as this blog is published Phil!
Breaking News! Factory just won the Bafta for Clangers! Well done everyone!
Mackinnon & Saunders brought Frankenweenie puppets with them, heres some Sparky’s
Day 3 – 19th November
A more relaxed pace for myself today, deciding to skip the first events as I didn’t have an additional pass for Joanna Quinns life drawing session, and had previously caught short films panorama I arrive in time for “The Re-making of Danger Mouse”
Remakes are a tricky thing to get right with many failing to find the balance needed to appeal to a new audience whilst also keeping the older fans happy.
However, in spite of the perceived odds the new series has been universally lauded, and like an episode from the show, those odds have been defied and Danger Mouse has emerged triumphant as ever.
We will be joined by the team responsible for this rodent renaisance as they take us behind the scenes for an exclusive look at a yet to be aired episode.
The talk focuses a lot on the pre production, discussing layout and style choices, showcasing some brilliant backgrounds created for the show, alien landscapes and an overgrown jungle of London, amongst others that I’m sure many in attendance would love to see released as wallpaper pictures for their various digital devices.
A yet to be aired episode is dissected and broken down then built up again in stages with the panel explaining the process and changes between sketch to screen, afterwards we are treated to the full episode which still manages to squeeze a few giggles out after we’d watched the same clip a few times before in the development stages, which speaks of the writing’s strong script and style.
If you’re a fan of the Skwigly podcast a lot of what’s discussed was subject to their interview on “Episode 34 Danger Mouse” so if you were unable to attend you could catch up as it were by listening to that episode.
Then outside for networking opportunities again (and a sneaky coffee laid on for the Manimation conference also happening today) a few more doodles for my book and it’s time for
Masterclass with Tim Searle Tim’s a bit of a punk anarchist of the animation world, initially producing title sequences and music videos for TV, he has some greats under his belt like 2D TV and Have I got news for you, the talk splits up Tim’s work history and university days, touching on the subtle experiences he got as a student union leader (learning to organise events and deal with people and celebrities) which may resonate and inspire many of the crowd to run for their own students union and society positions, with Tim’s TOP TIPS. Don’t be a dick. Practise. Short brief tips for the audience members to further their careers. Tim talks about how he’s lobbied for the animation tax break and concludes with an episode of the new animated Mr Bean show.
Sadly this is where I ended my festival time, I turned in my ticket so someone else could got to the Awards Ceremony winners were
Guidaby Rosana Urbes has won Best Short Film at the inaugural Manchester Animation Festival alongside other winners, Edmondby Nina Gantz winning Best Graduation Film and Kung Fu Badgerby Paper Panther and the transition Year class of Coláiste Eoin, Stillorgan taking the Best Film by Children (Under 16). Simon Cartwright’s MANOMANreceived the Audience Award prize as voted for by the delegates at the festival.
So keep your eyes out for these award winning films near you.
I had an amazing time at Manchester Animation Festival and feel refuelled and passionate this is what I need to do with my life, and that now is the time. I hope that MAF has a long successful life and that I can attend many more with my own films in the future.
I didn’t meet anyone who had issues with the festival, and the only time things were a little uncomfortable was the final day when 2 or 3 events finished at once with Manimation and there was a big crowd in the hallways, but this was a crowd of enthusiastic people, in fact 2 Manimation producers stopped me and insisted they watch my showreel shirt loving the idea and sharing details.
The little Book
Now what of this book I’ve mentioned? Well aside from catching eyes with my showreel shirt I wanted to engage with the people I spoke with at the festival, be it guests, friends, twitter followers, the volunteers or organizers so decided my takeaway from the festival, other than the few business cards would be a doodle.
So here’s some scans from my little Manchester doodle book, it gives me a unique memento to take away and hopefully cements some names to faces, and sow some new friendship seeds.
Since my last post I have managed to track down and purchase more materials such as Chavant clay and Toluene (A paint thinner that also works on silicone) And I used the process to make 3 more models and moulds the 3 part mould (my first ever) for an aardvark, an ape and a toad.
Arvin in chavant
Arnie Aardvark in chavant
Arnie and Slinky
Arnie and Slinky
arnie divided ready to be cast in plaster
arnies first section curing
arnies 1st part of the mould cured
arnies mould part 2
arnies mould ready for part 3
arnies mould complete, left, right and underside
arnies 3 part mould assembled
Arnie’s armature has metal nuts in his feet, they’re magnetic, so I can use magnets to secure the model when animating OR use ‘traditional’ tie down screws too (I’ll probably use magnets)
For the toad and ape I made armatures first so I can be sure they fit inside my models, they also have nuts in their feet for magnetic tie down
terry toads armature
arvins model in chavant clay (armature inside)
the crew so far
arvin ready to be cast
arvin detail plaster coat, painted/daubed onto the model directly so as to preserve fine details
painting the first detail coat of crystacal R plaster onto arvin model to preserve fine details
detail plaster coat finished
Arvins top half completed, hessian is added in layers of the plaster mould to add strength to the mould
Perfect £1 bucket for plaster, it’s flexible so dried plaster can be cracked off and disposed of, DO NOT wash wet plaster down sinks and drains.
arvin’s mould removed, lots of left over WED clay that needs to be cleaned off
arvins top half ready for casting
Easily the best way of cleaning off moulds, I saw them doing this on Face Off with a hose, I don’t have a hose, but I do have a shower!
these clay blocks in the middle will form drainage pools so excess silicone can pool into these resulting in thinner edges on the model and a tighter mould.
Terry Toads mould and armature
Yesterday I cast the aardvark in silicone.
Arnie’s silicone model, a few issues, mainly the bi air bubble on its back
excess silicone edges/flash/sprue trimmed and bubbles cut out, I decided to patch the holes with more silicone
Bubble holes filled in the mode is shiny because the silicone is still wet
The bubbles were a shame so I had to mix up another batch of silicone and touch up and fill the areas.
Ears added on, they also have wire inside, a hole was drilled into the milliput skull and ear wire inserted into the hole, extra silicone added to add skin and secure the ear in place
bristle hairs added
The ears were carved from some left over silicone, I shoved a wire into them and drilled a hole either side of his head into the milliput skull, and inserted them afterwards adding an extra layer of silicone on top and around the base to stick the ear in place, the hairs are simply a hole pierced into the silicone and old thick paint brush bristles inserted, painted black..
Now to make the toad and ape. Will have to make the feet again for the ape as his model ‘locked’ in the mould and I had to carve it out so now his feet area have holes through to the top. This probably occurred due to poor decision of where to build my dividing wall for his feet as such his toes were wider than the space behind it and once the plaster had set I had sealed his foot in a chamber it couldn’t pull out of.
For my current ongoing project Jungle Tails I’ve stepped outside my comfort zone on a few aspects to broaden my skill set, one of which is puppet making.
Taking my previous experiences into account working on Tyler Tigers first birthday
I knew clay models would melt on set under my studio lights, this means I would need to seek out alternative materials or clay compounds if I wanted my models not to warp and melt so much in the heat. This leaves Foam Latex and Silicone as the main go to materials for making puppets, I’ve never had the chance to work on silicone puppets before so decided to jump in as it was cheaper to start with than foam latex (from what I understand the foam latex would see me through further but has a higher upfront cost than the silicone). Foam Latex is very smelly to work with too, smelling something like gone off omlette, and so requires more care and dedicated equipment so I opted for the less smelly silicone.
I’ve also been watching a lot of ‘reality competition show’ Face Off where special effects make up artists compete to create special effects makeup pieces for films (and sometimes other theatrical displays) to a brief over 3 days. A lot of the processes and materials are the same for stop motion models, so I researched the materials they’re using which led me to try and find the UK equivalent brands too many online tutorials are based in America so it can be an issue figuring out what the products are and their availability in the UK.
2 of the main products used are ultracal casting plaster (UK equivalent is Crystacal R) and WED Clay no one I spoke to knew of WED clay but I did find some for online sale.
Staffordshire University were able to supply a big bag of Crystacal R for the best price (essentially no shipping fees which on 25kg bag of specialist plaster is huge) They also kindly lent me the trolley to get the bag home!
The WED clay is used on face off to model their prosthetic appliances where they get very good detail, the models I’ve made this time are quite simple and small and I made the first model for slinky the snake in this material.
Slinky Snake modeled in WED clay with a dividing wall , I didn’t use this exact model in the end but it’s as good a representation.
looking at some recent tutorials for silicone casting I saw the use of Lego as reusable support walls to keep plaster in and moulds tidy
Here is the first half mould Imade in crystacal, casting the top half of Slinky into ‘stone’
The top half was cast then the mould flipped, supporting clay removed and the other half was then cast
Slinkys mould came out well, the black marks are where i decided to use plasticene modelling clay to support the wed clay figure, I now know it’s better for stop motion to work the other way around and use the WED clay to support a non air drying moulding clay like super sculpey or what i now own chavant.
As previously mentioned I have never worked with silicone and was expecting to have some issues like I had with liquid latex, I pre tinted my silicone with a little oil paint, mixed to instructions, painted it into details on the mould, poured in more silicone to both halves, laid in the armature I had made, sandwiched the two halves together and prayed.
Surprisingly I was very pleased with how my first model came out, it had cured well, details remained and armature inside worked well enough.
However I had issues with attaching the eyes so decided to recast the model with a solid headpiece with the eyes embedded in sockets already so I could easily move them with pins later on.
Beginners luck had struck.
Slinky didnt cure this time and came out goopy and gory looking! KILL IT NOW
This second model did not cure at all!
Some research later I discovered I could clean the mould out with white spirit, it worked really well!
At this point I took the opportunity to sand down the edges of the mould as it had sharp edges and was easy to cut or scratch myself and my surroundings, and possibly lead to ripping of the model.
Time for cast #3 I added more catalyst this time and that seemed to have worked well and the silicone cured very quickly, the eyes move in this new model but still required some touch up where silicone was thin/torn and edges tidied up where I’d cut them.
Learning from the first cast I also filled in the support mounting hole in the armature with clay as the first time I had neglected to do so and it had filled with silicone and required tricky digging and cutting out in order to locate the support mount into his side.
Some detail work later and this is most likely the model that will appear on screen. I need to work ALOT on painting with silicone, as currently I’m struggling getting the correct mixture consistency before it cures and becomes gloopy, I’ll need to look into special effects makeup tips I think.
Silicone is definitely something I will continue to use for future models and with practise I can only improve my skills with the material.
Since draft writing this article I have discovered a recent tutorial on silicone puppet casting where the sculptor is very detailed and descriptive of his process on a simple model and mould. He uses chavant modelling clay to sculpt the model first, you can heat it with a small blowtorch to soften it and smooth out details and add fine touches then surround and support the model with the softer WED clay for casting, you can then recycle this WED clay after the mould making has been completed.
I’ve also got some more tips on working with and painting silicone.
My next model will be an aardvark also for jungle tails, and I may need to create a 3 part mould, again something new and scary to me, I will be trying out some of the tips mentioned in this other tutorial I saw and feel a little more confident in the whole process and materials I have.
Wish me luck, currently I’ll take any luck it helps!
Here’s my Ice Bucket Challenge Video, done a little differently and more in my style. ANIMATED!
Enjoy and please donate to charity where you can.
The puppet as you can probably tell is print outs stuck to an armature body. The water is cling film. Replacement faces were used, and a two part bucket so the water can pour out from inside.
I also make my arms + bucket swap sides of the armature as it raises it’s arms.
If you wanted to do something like this yourselves I’d recommend printing/sticking printout onto a stiff card/paper to reduce scuffing and crumpling. There are good examples of this ‘2D model’ style in short stop motion films online
After wading through and editing I have a version of my showreel I’m happy to punt around for now.
There’s always room to improve and chop and change in future, but for now here’s my brand new showreel for you to watch and enjoy.
For the best experience watch in fullscreen and HD
Hope you enjoy! What do you think? Leave a comment for me and share to friends or family you think could be interested in my skills.
I’m making a brand new show reel to promote and show case my animation abilities but also would like a good soundtrack to accompany my short film clips, this is where you come in!
If you’re a budding soundtrack composer, rock out in a band, strum acoustically or mix electronic beeps and whistles I want to help to promote you too!
No need to record something new, time is very short for me at the moment, but if you have a track, instrumental or otherwise you would allow me to use in a show reel, I will give full captioned credits to you/your band.
Know someone who might be interested? Forward this on to them, I’m looking at getting finished by the 10th September at the latest so time is short, however I may make additional changes after this date so please don’t be put off, unfortunately I cannot use all submitted songs but I will use the most suitable sample/s for the footage and purpose.
I decided, to build a green screen wall for chroma key backgrounds in my animations, looking at originally using pieces of card, however that added up as more costly in the long run and I wanted a more permanent solution, that wouldn’t require extra storage.
This build has cost me £53.58 in total for 4 hard board sheets, 2 tubs of paint and a paint roller all from the hardware store B&Q.
I’ve been making small video diaries showing the progress so I’ll put these below along with pictures.
and finally a test
I reckon with some lighting and care this will turn out to be very useful asset to my studio.
Still needs some tweaking, the filler between the boards didn’t work very well and has cracked in the heat the UK has had this week. So I have repainted the joins with a 50:50 latex blend of the green, however this has dried a lot darker than the other paint for some reason, so could probably do with another coat of paint on top of everything again to better ensure a closer colour tone.