Monday, 19 August 2013

Abstract Animations

Searching out interesting animations leads you all over the world. Here is an animation, Armenian Abstract Dreams by Sargis M which has interesting techniques and images as well as being well synchronised with its music track.

Here is another interesting film, Eyeliner, an indie 2D computer animation by Joanna Priestley of Portland, Oregon in the USA. 

Friday, 16 August 2013

Steampunk animation

Just watching more Russian short animations in my search for different arty techniques. This one is a film using silhouette, written and directed by Andrey Shushkov... a graduation project to be proud of. A sad but archetypal story, described as "A love story from the world of gears and bolts." The applications used were 1. Anime Studio 2. Photoshop 3. Apple Motion 4. Final Cut 5. Maya

Here is another great "steampunk" dystopian saga in silhouette below, "Bendito machine III". Are you scared of technology or the way we use and discard it?... you should be. Also below is a behind the scenes video demonstrating the techniques in Flash, Freehand MX and Final Cut Pro.

My first two Anime Studio renders

I've been experimenting with Anime Studio Debut and will post my first two renders. This software started in 1999 under the name "Moho", developed  by Mike Clifton at Lost Marble, which is where the user forum and free Papagayo lip syncing program are now situated. Mike currently works for Smith Micro as the lead engineer on Anime Studio. This is how Anime studio is described on the website... I have a lot to learn.

• Revolutionary Bone Rigging system takes the work out of tedious
   frame-by-frame animation
• Intuitive animation timeline simplifies complex animation tasks
• Physics Engine allows for super realistic movement and collisions
• Auto Trace your own artwork and then animate it
• Work with vector based art for maximum control and scalability
• Import or record audio and automatically lip-sync to characters
• Work in 2D or 3D space and import 3D objects

This was my first attempt at bone rigging, which is a shortcut means to move certain linked fields of the animation through inverse and forwards kinematics which were developed for robot control. I have made a very simple tick-like creature to experiment with because I want to keep my designs out of the cartoon figure stereotype at this stage of learning. Once you set up the internal bone rigging, it can be manipulated from a distance, without touching the figure, which is convenient.

Here is the second animation I have done with Anime Studio. It is to test the movement and overlap of multiple layers. All of the layers are hand-drawn and manipulated, no bone rigging or set shapes were used. I was amazed at how smooth the tweening appeared, because I really didn't use that many key frames for the length of the animation. I trashed the first render of this because I had misjudged the time it would take and it ended up too fast and jerky. I went back into it and was able to adjust the timeline to make it longer although it did get a bit muddled when I did that. It is good to be able to highlight and slide the keyframes. The other adjustment I made was with the transparency of the shapes. I had to increase the opacity on the two pink shapes so that the provided more of a contrast to the other washed out tones.

Considering the very limited experimentation I have done, I am very pleased with the way this program works. I find it much more intuitive than the more expensive programs I have tried at the university. It works smoothly with my MacBook Pro and Wacom Bamboo tablet. For a very cheap setup I feel that I should be able to get some very interesting, complex results.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Anime Studio Debut - It works!

Semester two of my MA in Digital Art has started and I've bought my animation program. I'm very excited by it. My aim is learn to use it so well that I don't even have to think about the technicalities when I make artworks that move. It does everything I want and more. I'm a bit of a control freak with my artwork, but I am also very in to risk taking and innovation. Anime Studio will offer me all the challenges I need and lead me on to new pathways.

While I was doing my 4 year degree at ANU, BA Visual Arts (painting) I found the discrepancy between the mastering of traditional technical skills and the constant requirement for innovation in art unsettling and rather depressing. I am a natural innovator, but the tendency towards minimalism just doesn't move me. Once it has been done I feel that it is no longer important.

The contemporary fashion industry gives an insight into the rest of the art scene. One can revamp "classic" styles and techniques and call them new, a novelty which is usually pretty transparent to those who have lived through a few generations of change, or engage in a desperate hunt for something that hasn't been done before. Now what artists consider novelty seems to be more in the hype (self promotion) or analysis (dissection) of art. Excuse me for finding that dull.

So, that is my very negative assessment of art fashions, but it doesn't take account of an artist's individual achievement and innovation. I believe that art "movements" are a thing of the past because we have had the "anything goes" mentality for so long now that there is nothing particularly novel about anyone's art. The death of "shock value" art movements does not discount the journeys of individual artists.

In this privileged "first world" society where we are bombarded with rich food, imported culture and the cheap products of emerging nations, there is even more need for each of us to establish interests and activities through which we express our identities and developing skills. A lot of people in our society, although wealthy and privileged in the eyes of other nations are actually poor in culture and purpose, in dislocated communities with dead end jobs.

I live on a farm with a lot of animals to look after. Although I often moan about the backbreaking work of my family's chosen lifestyle, at least it has meaning and purpose and I don't have to go to a gym to keep fit. There is not a lot of spare time to engage in making art, but it gives me a source and inspiration for my art. I enjoy painting and crafting, but in order to connect with the rest of the world I am determined to develop my means of expression using digital art.

As the 20th century came to an end I looked back on the achievements of its artists. It was not the modernist art movements in painting, sculpture, literature or music which I felt would really be looked on as that century's most significant art legacy, but the amazing individual and collaborative achievements in the field of "moving" images. I looked back on the milestones of the century in which my grandparents, my parents and my own generation had spent most of their productive lives and film was the art form which I felt had had the most influence on society.

Film, in particular animation, was the great "constructive" art effort of the Twentieth Century. Expressionism, surrealism, cubism, modernism and every other ism of the century had a great effect on "art" as it was known, but I feel that it was as much a de-constructive effect as a constructive one. All the way along the road towards the dead end of ephemeral art, artists in the last century changed the way they have designed their works and thought about their art.

In building, design, fashion, music, literature and philosophy the changes over the century were immense, but I believe that what both fed on these changes and spread them to the masses were the constructions of the film industry... the technology of dreams. When story telling, sound and moving image capture came together for the first time it was a true shattering of conventions. It both incited and promoted the changes in traditional art forms.

Painting in particular was forced to change. It had been a highly skilled trade used for centuries to capture a story, a scene, a time, a lifestyle, a hero, a loved one or a religious revelation, then its uses were changed to that of the expression of an individual artist. That was a world shattering change for artists using traditional media, but not so much for the general populace who were much more blown away by the experience of watching Disney's "Steamboat Willie" or Chaplin's "Modern Times." Animation and film led by Hollywood has become such a part of all our lives, is it any wonder that the cultural imperialism of the USA was so successful?

I have been researching examples of interesting animation, particularly those which combine techniques more usually used in still paintings. That is the area of interest which I am investigating this semester, both by looking at other people's animations and by experimenting with what I can achieve by using my newly purchased Anime Studio application. This is not a radically new step in the type of art I make, but more an adaptation of my still artworks. (To look at my still artworks go to this link at my website -

Here is a beautiful hybrid traditional animation using oil painting on glass recorded digitally. Aleksandr Petrov won an Oscar in 2002 for this cartoon adaptation of Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea". Rather than using brushes, he uses his fingers to organise the paint, he says that he likes using this technique because it is new and exciting but "organic simple and effective." He defines himself as an artist rather than an animator and describes the drawback of his technique as the amount of time it takes to do, which gets the actual creation out of synch with the "creative spark."

Aleksandr Petrov takes about three and a half years to complete 30 minutes of film. This is not a technique I am about to copy even though I empathise with his motivation for using it. I will see what I can make using Anime Studio.