Changing Faces – Imagery

At this point my theme is well established. However I need some more imagery for the article. I decided that since I have such an abundance of candles left over from my previous piece (see previous post) that I’d so some experimentation. I wasn’t able to secure a decent camera for this so the images are from my phone.

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I had the idea of using the melted wax as an implement from drawing. So I sketched out a simple map of the earth in pencil before lighting my candles and setting to work. I didn’t want to simply drip over the right areas one at a time as I thought this would not create the desired effect. I wanted a swirling, dynamic and slightly abstract image.

By smearing the lit candle across the paper and the wax dripped from it. I ended up with something similar to a watercolor. The effect of this was just what I’d hoped. There was some ash from the wick but I feel that only adds to the image. I used blue and black candles because I wanted a slightly washed out, bleak look but still bright. It was only after I finished this piece that I really thought about how I could apply it.

Earth Drippy

Here’s the Photoshop edited piece. I simple removed all the paper coloring so the image would sit nicely on my final piece without the off-white box surrounding it.

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This is a continuation of the same image. I just kept on melting. I was aiming for an effect like a waxy puddle gather beneath the earth. It came out looking a little more like a platform as if the planet was on a stand however. Because of this I did a little more editing to see if I could salvage it.

Earth Melting

Here’s the final piece. I’m not entirely satisfied with the outcome but I’m happy to have explored the concept. Painting with wax offers a great dynamism to images. The depth a color and texture is really great. The images don’t really do it justice because my camera phone makes them look very flat. I’m not sure yet how I can apply this to my project but it’s a good piece to have in case it comes in handy later.

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Changes Faces – Choices, choices

Our latest brief consists of taking a written article and creating a publication from it. A five page spread with complete creative freedom on page layout, accompanying illustrations etc. We’ve been given a total of 10 potential article from which to create our piece. My first step has been to read them and make a decision on which to proceed with. Or at least, to narrow down my choices.

It’s pretty rudimentary so I didn’t feel it was worth including images of my process. But I simply read through each article, summarized it, and gave it a rating out of 10.

A Decade Lived in the Dark – A woman’s struggle with a mysterious skin condition that lead to hide from strong natural and artificial light due to the burning sensation it caused in her skin.

4/10

About a Boy – The story of a female to male transgender individual called Skylar which documents her experience and the issues facing the transgender community as a whole as they struggle for acceptance in society.

5/10

Brexit was a War, and we Won” – A story looking at Aaron Banks, a powerful and passionate seeker of UK independence, and the largest donor to the leave campaign with total donations of approx £7m. The story details his reasons for wanting to leave, his issues with the status quo and his aspirations for the future of the UK.

5/10

Ending the 21st Century Slave Trade – Story highlighting the reality of the modern slave trade and its impact. Follows a man’s fight to free people in forced servitude.

6/10

Can Trump Handle the Truth? – Documenting the brief but eventful time Donald Trump has been President of the US. A general look at the backseat fact based claims have taken in his administration and the so called ‘post truth’ era he has brought about. Focuses on the ‘wire tapping scandal’ where Trump claims the Obama administration tapped the communications of Trump Tower to help sway the elections against him. This claim made with no evidence and consistently refuted by US intelligence agencies.

6/10

Everything will Change – Exploring the reasons why there seems to be such a lack of momentum for environmental causes in the wake of massive evidence suggesting climate change may be being brought about by human action and could be catastrophic. Explores previous times when Governments put out the call for action when threats were immediate and people promptly responded and then compares.

5/10

Bitcoin Coder fighting ISIS – The story, some of it autobiographical, of a self described anarchist left winger who is instrumental in developing Bitcoin to subvert National Governments. But instead finds himself lending support to Kurdish militias in Iraq and Syria in the fight against ISIS.

7/10

Facebook AI Classes

*Given that I had read promising articles that really drew me in already, after skimming this, I knew there would be no possibility of it being my final choice and so I left it there. It just wasn’t interesting to me from the start*

0/10

Is Fat Killing you. Or is Sugar? – Details the controversy among health professionals that has been ongoing since the 1960s about which is the primary cause of poor health in people. Fat or sugar?

5/10

Silicon Valley’s quest to live forever – Silicon Valley is the name given to America’s tech hub. The focus of this article is the pursuit of extended or even eternal life which more and more companies are beginning to align themselves with. The article explores the possible repercussions of these ventures and the ethical problems they might entail.

4.5/10

My Thoughts

All in all I was very impressed with the wide variety of subjects provided as material. They explore many of the great conundra that modern society faces. Some, such as Climate Change, I have decided against simply because they’ve been done to death and I don’t feel I have anything new to offer. Some simply weren’t topics that appeal to me in the slightest.

I have narrowed my potential articles down to three. And they are:

21st Century Slave Trade – I’ve heard that the number of slaves in the modern day is vastly more than in the so called ‘ times of slavery’, but I really don’t know much about the subject. I also have some ideas for illustrations and statistical visualizations that would work. Such as a map of the world with a measure of the slaves in each country.

Can Trump Handle the Truth? – I follow American politics quite closely, ever since covering it in my Politics A Level. The goings on in that political sphere just blow me away. I also feel that America is a Country that relies so heavily on symbolism for everything. They have giant logos, crests and symbols for all things Government and political. I could do a lot with that in terms of illustration.

Bitcoin to Fighting ISIS – I’ve heard a lot about Bitcoin and how it subverts Governments and is considered by its users as a force for good. But is dangerous s it can be used for untraceable purchasing of drugs, weapons and people etc. It’s really shady and I’d like to learn more. I also follow the events in the Middle East quite closely. I read about the giant scrum in Syria and Iraq between Assad, ISIS, The Kurds and various Rebel Groups. It’s something I’d like to learn more about.

The Finished Product

 

Here is our finished work, my animating work was on the open three scenes. The project will consist of this piece, as well as a corresponding series of posters and a printout of a gif and will be exhibited in the Cardiff School of Art and Design Atrium.

Process

During the process of creating this work I have developed a huge respect for the animators art. It is immensely time consuming and frustrating. What we have created of the course of these past weeks is among the most basic of animations, yet I am very pleased with the result given our lack of experience.

Designing and general preparation for the animating was a pretty standard affair for us as we all understand the depth of knowledge of a subject one need before they stark work. That happens to be my favorite part, throwing around ideas and developing something from all the best bits, ideas bouncing around and being shaped by us as a group. Even a project as seemingly simplistic as this takes huge effort on all parts.

An example of the minute alternations we made even in our last few days of work, are Emily’s eyes as she cries in the second scene. It was suggested to me by a lecturer to have her eyes change as she cried, I made ‘U’ shaped eyes to appear downcast and upset. But through group discussion, we had three designs before we reached, what we felt, was the best style.

Given the time-frame we were working within (45-60 seconds) I am really happy with the variety within our film. Some groups chose to work from a single computer to insure the work would be absolutely uniform. I am glad we chose not to do this. We of course made a great effort to plan out every aspect of the work before we began, but by working separately and simply pooling our work and asking for feedback as we went, I feel we managed to make our piece more vibrant and interesting. Each one of us took some small liberty to change small details based on what we thought worked. I, for example, decided to add the tear rolling down Emily’s face in the moment and asked the group who basically said ‘ sure, see if it works’.

Working separately brought up challenges such as scale of Emily and surrounding objects. I feel the advantages outweighed even this though. Each of us are still only have a cursory understanding of Adobe After Effects, I feel like I could use it for years and still be discovering more about it. The result of this was that in each of our sections, we made different animating choices based on what we knew. We all had different ways of tackling problems. This variety only enriched the work in my opinion.

Audio Work

In honesty it wasn’t until we began including audio into the project that I saw it coming to life. The animation on its own was never going to be that impressive. But just small stuff like the clacking of the computer keyboard and the clicking of the mouse, gives a whole other dimension to it. These were easy to come by online, it just took an awful lot of scavenging to find free effects. I have listed a few of my favourite go-to sights on my last blog post.

Along with almost every other file we collectively amassed in the project. I decided we should upload everything to a memory stick of mine as backup and way of sharing large files. Many of our files, especially audio, would be necessary for each others portions of the project. This was another step we took to insure continuity and uniformity. I found a lot of the sound effects but they were going to be needed in all three parts of the video.

The music you hear throughout the video was a find of Callum’s, I wasn’t aware he’d added it until he played it back to me a couple of days before the exhibition. I was really happy with it. It’s light and melodic while fitting the very simplistic style of the animation and not being intrusive. It also contrasts well with the deep foreboding note as Emily falls in the fourth scene.

The final piece of the puzzle was the narration. I am not a narrator but for this project I was the unwilling voice over. We used a borrowed voice recorder from the Graphic Design office and me and Callum went off to find a quiet area in which to record. It was actually quite an educational crash course in acoustics. Everywhere was either too small and echoy or full of people.

The script was nonexistent. We just played the video, counted the length of each scene and then cut the sentence on the screen down until it could be said in the time allotted. I decided (I got to call the shots as the only one willing to use my voice) that simply reading what was on screen would be a bad idea. I personally hate adverts with text that is read out word for word by a narrator as if I am too stupid to read it myself. I understand, however, that some people cannot read whats on the screen for various reasons and in that case the text should be paraphrased. Which is exactly what I did in the end.

Summing it up

This was horrendously stressful and irritating brief and I hope to have a significant time out before being asked to do something similar again. However I understand the necessity of learning every skill related to Graphic Design. It was really fulfilling to see it all come together in the end and have our polished pieces to show off. It tested my ability to work in a group more than once but I am happy to have been through it. It must have really stuck with me because I have found myself wandering how I would change it if given the chance and several ideas have already been flying around my head.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Animation first steps

Although I had only a very brief time to become accustomed to using Adobe After Effects and am not particularly accustomed to Illustrator. I tend to learn best out of necessity. What is clear with animation is that it is usually best to build layer upon layer, starting from background forwards, anything moving, weather, vehicles etc must be created and put behind the main focus of the animation. In this case, Emily.

In creating the piece I had several false starts. I used countless Youtubers tutorials such as Terry White who has a huge range of instructional videos on all things Adobe. And Gareth David at Tasytuts who specialises in graphic and particularly logo design and especially in Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop . I tend to find I learn far more when I listen and watch someone perform the action than reading through a step by step guide.

Being very aware that I had limited skills, I decided to utilize all the simple tricks I had learned in the tutorial session with Matt.

I was in charge of the opening scenes of our animation which meant I could play around with the establishing shot. I was slightly constrained by the storyboard however. I decided a simple fade in from the story’s title would be best. Fading from black to open into the room to give context before zooming in to focus on Emily. I wanted to leave her face unseen until the second scene so as not to give everything away all at once.

The clicking finger although incredibly basic, took some time to include as it ended up being on a layer of its own due to a technical issue I couldn’t resolve. I found there were a lot of times when I had to think on my feet and find other ways of doing something. After Effects is such a complex software that there often isn’t a tutorial of website guide for your highly specific problem.

The messages appearing were only very broadly defined in the story board. All I had to work on was the idea that she should receive aggressive messages. As I had only 15-20 seconds to work with for all three of my scenes and I was well over the allotted time frame for each scene. I had to make something visual that needed no reading. My first thought was that everyone of the age this is aimed at (children of internet using age) would be using the same social media. And the largest social media website is obviously Facebook. Over a billion people are currently have active accounts. Using emojis from Facebook would make them instantly understandable by everyone. Why waste effort building it yourself when Facebook has spent billions building up recognition of all its products.

Here in the second scene I wanted a drawn out moment of realisation. The perspective turns to face Emily and is set as if peering out from the computer screen, she is suddenly given a personality. At the same moment she is scrabbling on the computer to find and understand the contents of the messages she’s just received. The wide shot provides enough of a view to see she is alone in  darkened room. This was carefully thought out. Most cyberbullying is a very solitary experience for the victims as those in a position to help, would most often be unaware of it.

I wanted to pan from the wide shot right in to Emily’s face. She is the focus and her expression is key to imparting the message. I wanted her to bow her head, but in two dimensions this was difficult. I settled for having her features literally sink. I was very pleased with the mechanics of the tear. I had it fade in to view before rolling down and pausing at her cheek before dropping.

I was very plkeased with the outcome of my second scene, but after a group meeting with Neil Angove, I decided on a change. We agreed that the unchanging eyes were lacking emotion. To some extent I felt a dead pan face with a tear would be very effective. But I understood the sentiment and I’m always happy for constructive criticism.

Here we have a far more advanced rendering. My first change was to alter the eyes in scene two when Emily cries. But I also decided to add audio. I spent quite a long time selecting the highest quality free audio clips I could and found from numerous forums, .wav files were far better than mp3 format. Website used include:

Although simple in theory, adding audio turned out to be a complete nightmare. The week in which I was animating this section of the video I was way from University and so only had my laptop to work from. For some reason when previewing my unrendered footage with audio files imported, there was no sound. This made aligning it with the visual queues impossible.

After some research I determined it would be possible to add the audio files using other software with rendered footage and then import the file back into After Effects. This would only give me a working model but mean I could share my progress with Laura and Callum using a shared google drive account. The software I used was a free trial of VideoPad, similar to After Effects but far more basic in its capabilities. It served well for audio editing however.

With two of my three scenes complete at this point. The only thing left is to create the last scene and apply final touches before combining them with the other’s work.