Archives for category: Animation

Towards the end of last year I had the pleasure of reuniting with Wish Films to art direct the second series of ‘Melody’, the popular BBC – CBeebies show.

Melody is a partially sighted girl with an incredible imagination. Her adventures come to life through animation, as she visualizes stories and characters conjured up by classical music.

The new series can be seen on weekdays at 11am from March 16th 2015

 model sheet

For Series 2, I’ve updated the character design and refreshed the overall look of the show, working with the RNIB to make sure the animation remains accessible to a partially sighted audience. In the first series we often relied on using bold black outlines to make things stand out, which could look a little heavy. In this series I wanted a fresher look, so to achieve contrast we used carefully thought out colour combinations and clear layouts.

stills

One of the great things about art directing this series was working with four fantastic animation studios, each with their own unique style. They have created richly imaginative responses to 20 stories, featuring the music of great composers from Mozart to Gershwin

So, a big thank you to everyone at  Keyframe, Tentacle, Finger Industries and A Productions.

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Remarkable Stories on the Underground

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I’ve been working with creative media agency Fin, on their debut project for the Imperial War Museum: A series of short films focusing on some of the more intriguing and surprising stories surrounding the Great War.
The content spots come in 12 x 25 second episodes, being broadcast on Exterion Media’s Cross-Track Projection (XTP) screens at London Underground stations.  They contain rare photos and remarkable facts about the First World War, many of which are related to the modern day life of a typical Tube commuter.

exterion

Jane Richardson, Marketing Manager at Imperial War Museums said: “The First World War was a landmark event, which changed the world for ever. A hundred years on, it is through the stories, moments and photos from that time that we can get a glimpse into what life was like for the generation who lived, fought, died and survived the war. Everyone is connected to the war, whether through their own family history, the way in which it shaped life today, or through their local communities and how they were affected.

– See more at: http://exterionmediauk.tumblr.com/post/89060128362/imperial-war-museums-takes-centenary-commemoration#sthash.rXs7vDZv.dpuf


Aardman short film: ‘Flight of the Stories’

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To mark the opening of the IWM’s new First World War Galleries and the wider centenary commemorations, Aardman has created a special short film, Flight of the Stories.
(Alas, I can’t claim any involvement in this poignant piece, but I thought it was worth sharing.) 

To find out more about IWM’s remarkable new First Word War galleries, visit www.iwm.org.uk/ww1

BAFTA win for Long Lost Family

longlost

I designed the titles and logo for the first series of this hit ITV show, which seeks to reunite close relatives after years of separation. It returns for it’s fourth series this summer.

Congratulations to production company Wall to Wall for the show’s recent BAFTA win in the Features category.


Rediscovered Chinese Masterpiece

spring

Listening to the radio one morning, I heard Spring in a Small Town described as ‘The Chinese Brief Encounter‘. That has to be worth watching.

Regarded as the finest work from the first great era of Chinese filmmaking, Fei Mu’s quiet, piercingly poignant study of adulterous desire and guilt-ridden despair – now restored – is a remarkable rediscovery. – BFI

The film was originally suppressed and long thought lost, but rediscovered in the ‘80s, it was soon hailed as one of the finest Chinese movies ever made.

The BFI has now re-released this long lost classic, which is available to rent online and is also on limited cinema release. More details HERE.


 Blackwing Pencils

blackwing

I’ve heard much about the legendary Blackwing pencil, beloved of Golden Era animators such as Chuck Jones and the great Ken Harris.

In his book The Animator’s Survival Kit, Ken’s friend and collaborator Richard Williams recalls: When he (Ken) died in 1982 at eighty-three, my real regret was that when I was a pallbearer I didn’t have the guts to tuck a Blackwing pencil into his hand in his open coffin. He would have loved that.

The Blackwing’s roots go back to the 1930’s but it was discontinued in 1998. I thought it was lost forever, save for a few individual pencils, changing hands for silly money on eBay. But now this iconic doodling tool has been revived by Palomino.

 

Here’s an interesting project from Autodesk Research: ‘Draco’ is ‘a prototype sketch-based interface from that allows artists and casual users alike to add a rich set of animation effects to their drawings, seemingly bringing illustrations to life.’

I love the idea of a sketch based interface, whereby you can control motion paths and other properties by drawing directly into the work area. This feels very intuitive, especially if you’re using a tablet or an interactive pen display such as a Wacom Cintiq. I’d like to see a hybrid interface for something like After Effects, where sketch based controls can be fine tuned with more traditional methods like keyframes and the graph editor.

I worry about all this though. I worry about the idea of bringing illustrations to life. Why would you do that? Is the predominance of screen-based media making us all so distracted that we can’t sit and look at a static image anymore? And in any case, part of an illustrator’s mastery is creating life and movement through draughtsmanship.

winnie

One of my favourite illustrators is Ernest Shepard. This lovely picture of Winnie the Pooh and Piglet tells you everything you need to know about a windy day. It certainly wouldn’t be improved by a bunch of animating leaves whirling around. Quite the opposite in fact.

I also worry about animation being automated and controlled by algorithms. It’s great that you can make things bounce and ease and wobble at the click of a button. There are some great tools around for this, like the brilliantly named Ease and Wizz for After Effects. But it does feel like animation – and motion graphics in particular – is becoming rather homogeneous. You see the same kind of movement everywhere and design often seems driven by whichever plug-in effect happens to be in fashion.

Animation is about feeling. You can really see this in a traditional animator’s pencil tests. (This is Shere Khan from The Jungle Book, animated by the great Milt Kahl.) Pencil tests have such a lovely quality. They’re so direct – from brain to hand to page. And created with nothing more than acute observation, great draughtsmanship and a pencil.  The feeling of an animation comes from the personality of the animator. You can’t automate that.

MTV logo

I recently spent three weeks with the nice people at MTV, providing graphics for various promos. As a child of the ‘80s it was great to work with this iconic brand from my youth. You can see examples of this and other promo work here.

’80s Architecture

tvam

The MTV building in Camden was also something of an ’80s icon. Originally the HQ of TV-am, the 1983 building was designed by Terry Farrell, and famously features 12 giant egg cups on the roof. The postmodern structure has recently undergone a controversial revamp, replacing the entire ’80s facade. (The eggcups remain though.)

And there’s more…

grimshaw flats2

 

A few hundred yards from MTV there’s another architectural gem by Farrell’s former partner, Nicholas Grimshaw. These striking modernist flats, built in 1988, were influenced by car manufacturing techniques.

James

 

Slightly tenuous this, but on the subject of ‘80s icons, the first gig I ever saw was The Smiths in 1985. They were supported by the then, relatively unknown James, who have just released this beautiful and touching video for Moving On, created by brilliant animator, Ainslie Henderson.

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