Sunday, 30 November 2008


Its Sunday! Day of rest and animation! Something like that. Today, I have done a bit of character work, a bit of background design and research (Which is before this post) and a little bit of animation. I have been reserving my test animation for my T&P blog, which you can link to from the left hand side of this page, but the test piece I've done today will be covered in this entry instead.

Oooo where to start. We'll start with the character stuff! I needed to get some more work done on the boy after he enters the forest - with his darker look. I have started doing that:

Basic elements of the character. He is simple in design, but that doesn't limit what you can do with him.

I think when I get to animating him fully, he is going to look great.

Awww, he's scared....

Next, a new character that has never been seen before!

This is a manifestation of the darkness that has lured the boy into the forest. Swirls have the never ending are the theme for the forest and with this character been the antagonist of the piece, I wanted people to think he had made the forest all swirly, dark and evil because...well, he has done exactly that.

Above is the hand that will lure the boy into the shack and then snatch him up.

What will happen inside the shack I don't know. Above = hypothesis!

Then a little bit of background work...these still aren't quite coming together - I can't decide on a style and I don't like what Ive done myself...

Another dark background - still not quite feeling it.

This is going to be one of the most important shots in the entire piece. When the boy walks into the forest everything transforms. The scenery, the foliage...even the boy. This needs to be conveyed to the audience perfectly, otherwise they will get confused and it will ruin the piece. That is why I have made it as simple as possible. A background, divided into two halves - one light, one dark. When the boy crosses behind the tree he changes into the darker version of himself. If I do it right, it will look great. Do it wrong, it will look crap.

Last but not least. The animation of the day! Fast running boy. First the run itself:


Then the making of the run:


Then my commentary: This run is OK. It's very procedural though, nothing that great about it. It's not inventive in anyway. I don't mind it because it looks OK and it suits the piece...but there are a few other mistakes. There is too much head movement. The head needs to move in a tighter circle otherwise it all just looks a bit too much. I had to shoot this on 2's to slow it down so that you could actually make sense of it. But lesson learned and that is whats important!

Other than that, I think today has been a good progress day. Plenty of work done - just need to get cracking on the backgrounds and get a few more poses for the boy down. I've got to draft up the end of the piece, which I will do the same day I get the end of the poem. Then I need to go over everything, make sure it all makes sense, it all looks good. Go to an in depth final storyboard, make sure all the backgrounds are done then animate the it and find the right music. We're getting there slowly....but the deadline looms! DUM DUM DUMMMMM!


Okami is a game originally for the PS2 that was recently ported to the Wii with a widescreen aspect ratio, a 'polished' look and an updated control scheme. The control scheme certainly added a new way of playing things, but the widescreen was what made all of the difference. This game was beautiful the first time around but it only got better with its re-release - just a shame you couldn't use a standard controller. So why am I writing about a video game on my animation blog....if you have to ask that you are kind of boring I guess, games are a fantastic outlet for modern media and animation. But I will privilege you with an answer anyway! Okami is probably the most unique looking video game since the 8-bit era brought to life a whole new side of art: I was most chuffed to see that at the end of Wall-E they used a load of 8-bit animation art in the credits; it really made me smile.

So why is it so unique? Okami's stylised look comes from a fruitful Japanese art background...pun intended to all the Okami fans out there :P The games creators loved this unique brand of art so much they transformed a whole world into this stylised look and the results are beyond gorgeous. I was lucky enough to be given the original artwork book as a present - one that quickly went on to become my favourite present! Pictures can only describe what I mean....I will start off with some pieces of work that I like the most, then I will get to the main hunk of the blog: the background artwork!

Okami Amaterasu

The new box art.

This is where the good stuff is: the concept art.

Just breath taking.

The world of Okami is full of beautiful and wonderful places. Every single one will take you aback for a second...that is what games should do. The background art is essential in creating this experience. In Okami you play the God of the Sun Amaterasu, the Benevolent Mother and you have many powers to control the game around you...including some which adjust the scenery. You can for instance switch between night and day at will. This means that all the backgrounds change and mature at your discretion. Places like Ponc'Tan (Pictured further down) are just incredible. The game is all about nature and so the backgrounds are especially designed with that in mind. Cherry blossoms bloom everywhere and blow in the wind. The skyline is constantly changing gradient, with hand drawn Japanese style clouds to fill in the gaps. Sparse weed growth and 2D trees that circle around as you run past so they are always facing you instead of 3D trees. The game is unique and the artwork is inspirational - especially the character design. So, here are some of this games unique background offerings.

These trees are dying and they keep away the darkness - it is your job to literally give them life. Okami is all about nature and saving the Earth. When you circle these trees with your celestial brush, they blossom to life immediately and you get a beautiful cut scene that drops your jaw.

There is a lot of 'greenery' in Okami and you think at some point it would get repetitive or dull...but it never does. Every area opens up new kinds of vegetation and life and the bamboo forest is a fantastic example of this. The above concept art is amazingly accurate to the final piece. They designed the leaf can ope as one whole thing and then sparingly drew in individual leaves. Underneath are hundreds of thousands of thing bamboo sticks - it is a striking thing to see and a well thought out method of showing off this side of nature.

This is Ponc'Tan, home to a Poncle that could be viewed as the games protagonist: Issun. Poncles art artists, who paint to inspire people to believe in Gods: thus giving the Gods the power to watch over the human race. Sadly, Issun ran away from home and lost his inspiration - this is as much his journey as yours and Ponc'Tan is one of the most impressive landscapes in the entire game. Poncle's are a tiny race and the tress in these images are no more that tiny stalks to you or much room for invention.

The Divine Tree is the last thing keeping the darkness out, it looks this good even in game. All the tree designs are amazing - I am trying to take a lot of influence from this way of designing things - its a very open minded way of looking at the world.

This final image says everything there is to say about the game. Its what its all about. The artwork is stunning and the locations just awash with staggering beauty. This is probably one of the most beautiful games ever made and it really is something to behold.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Lost in the forest...

Still lost in the forest of backgrounds, I have been working with my own designs trying to get my own style, get the look I'm going for and so far I just haven't hit it. Sadly time is running out. Realistically, I need to be animating this by next Monday to even have the slightest chance of getting it finished for my deadline. But I also need to do the backgrounds....its a conundrum wrapped in an enigma and I haven't even decided on a style yet. it might have to be something simpler than the one I have just done - which is here:

It's just not what I was thinking of....

I think more children's book-y might be the way to go. But I'm learning a lot about Photoshop as I is rather an insane tool.

The animation side of things is coming together though. I have been doing a few tests and practises in my T&P work trying to put together the kind of thing I can see in my mind. You can see some of the results here: It's only rough work but you get the idea. Hopefully I will be back tomorrow with a decision!

Thursday, 27 November 2008


I used to hate storyboarding, it really used to drive me up the wall. I couldn't understand why you'd bother as an individual artist or animator putting things down on paper that are already in your head. But over the last year it has become an invaluable resource for me and now I actually quite enjoy it....thumb nailing it anyway. I haven't quite reached the drawing out all the main shots lovely and neat...that still seems pointless when you are an individual artist animator working on your own creation. Over time I hope to change that. I still haven't received a finished copy of the poem yet, but the creator guarantee's me I will have it a.s.a.p. This means I haven't been able to finish my storyboard....but I will post what I have got so far because the piece is really beginning to come together as a little story. It's quite fun watching it all come together but still not really been able to truly see what it will look like in the end :) Anyway - here are the storyboards in order so far!

No commentary because I don't want to reveal anything...though you can click the images to make them bigger so you can see the captions under the thumbnails...hint hint.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Adam Phillips

I remember the first time I saw an Adam Phillips animation. I had just recently joined Newgrounds and everybody was raving about "Prowlies at the River". My jaw dropped when I saw it. Investigation: this really couldn't be done in Flash could it? Whoever made this must be a reet lying SOAB! Well, Adam Phillips is none of those things and "Prowlies" went on to win at Flash Forward in San Francisco and take the Grand Prize at TGSNT 2. That certainly shut me up. His next animation 'littleFoot' went on to do just as well and now he is heralded as an animation legend in the world of Flash Animation and rightly so.

Adam Phillips lives in Australia. He quit Disney as a special effects artist to bring to life a world he had invented in his spare time. The world of Brackenwood. And what a world it is, full of incredible scenery, beautiful waterfalls and bizarre lovable creatures. You can truly get lost in this world and I firmly believe that if somebody would just give him the money to do it, he would make a film that the rest of the world could get lost in too.

As a modern story teller he does something which I honestly thought might have been lost forever in the world of animation: He gets me truly involved with the events that unfold. His stories are inventive, original and full of humour and harmony. They are instantly classic, but completely fresh.

As an animator he knows his tools so well, that he can fool people into believing anything is possible and his subtle sparse use of computer animation is something I have always enjoyed - its almost cheeky. As a special effects animator he is unsurpassed. His water effects are incredible, they make my eyes run and lip quiver. How he does some of the things he does - in Flash none the less - is absolutely incredible.

As a background designer he is extraordinary. His use of scenery and wildlife are epic. He uses his backgrounds to communicate so much about the world he has created and they really do bring Brackenwood to life. He is a terrific talent and I respect his world deeply. Below is some of his work and a link to his website where you can view all of his animations.

Just look at the detail, time and care taken in these images.

A great use of blur in the foreground to add depth to the image.

Great camera angle choices throughout give the piece depth and keep the audience interested.

This night scene is the opening shot of "Prowlies at the River". See why I was sceptical?

'littleFoot' is my favourite film by Adam.

These are from his animation Bitey of Brackenwood: this is the first time we meet his lead character 'Bitey' - the most horrible creature in the wood, but also the fastest.

This fairy tale image is a perfect ending to Adam's latest animation in the Brackenwood series: Waterlollies. The detail and time in this animation is nothing short of amazing. I really love this final image when Bitey gets what he deserves.

Of course Adam Phillip's work doesn't stop there. He is also a freelance artist and has worked on many, many projects including one for Kelloggs.

Please visit Adam's website:

Monday, 24 November 2008

A little bit of everything...

Today I set out to tick some things off of my 'To Do' list and after working solid since noon I can report I haven't managed to do that. I have however got quite a lot done and am pleased with my progress. This is the first real day of work on the project and things are coming along nicely.

I started the day by researching into some background artist - I will make a post on that tomorrow. That was fun and I found some really great work. Then I checked my 'To Do' list and I have quite a bit to be getting on with. So I got right too it. Started with a bit of background work, then did some character design and posing and then back to backgrounds and well you get the picture. Busy. My mistake was letting my excitement get the better of me and plunging right in, doing a bit of everything. Anyway here are some of the days results!

I like this shot. I think I am going to use it for when the child is running up the hill right at the start of the piece. He is chasing a butterfly at the start. I think it will give the piece a fast sense of pace, making it exciting and vibrant, thus it will be more shocking when the boy gets into the woods.

This run is a little later on. I will be a doing a test of this run tomorrow for my T&P. I think this better catches the innocence that I want the character to have.

This is where the boy tries to capture the butterfly. I wanted a big stretch first. But this wasn't big enough so I tried again...

Much better.

Then the slam down. Not right.

Much better. But still room for improvement.

This is at the top of the hill when he waves to his mum. This was an earlier design. I think he needs to be shorter...cuter and more innocent. This makes him look too stick figure-ish. Definitely something I don't want.

I then drew up a thumbnail storyboard of the first part of the film. It is based on a document that I will include at the beginning of my project folder called 'Initial Ideas'.

Here is a close up. You can have a read of the things I have written...a sneak preview if you will.

Whilst researching this morning I found this amazing tree. It is by a photographer who's blog I came across. He kayaks around America taking pictures...very good pictures that I rather like. You can find his blog here. I decided I like this amazing tree so much, that I wanted to incorporate it into my piece. I saw faces in its wood work and thought it would be a fantastic idea to bring them into my animation to make it just that little bit creepier.

This is what I came up with. At least part of it, I couldn't get it all in the camera frame (Santa's bringing me a scanner for Christmas though so its OK). This isn't quite how I imagined it, but by the time I put it to digital ink I'm sure I will have it down. It is still a good drawing :)


To finish off here is a timelapse video of me starting one of the backgrounds for a scene in the forest. The video is short - but the time it took is long. About 45 minutes condensed here. I am a learner when it comes to photoshop, but I'm inspired by my previous results with it.

I was thinking about this project all weekend and am really eager to get on with it. I know its gunna be a good one, I can feel it in my bones. I just need to get the 'feel' right. Its essential. Time constraints mean I really need to start animating next week...and its a short week for me due to unforeseen circumstances.

More tomorrow as you'd expect.