Sunday, 4 December 2011

dance film

over the last weeks I have been working on choreography for film...but with the intention of using that dance film for a specific reason. I am trying to visualise the feeling of skating....not just the look of it. I have tried sketches of skaters but it just did not capture how I feel about what skating suggests to me . And it seems to suggest more to others too.It has been amazing to see the reaction from a variety of people when I talk about it and I feel my practice is beginning to capture that sense I have of skating being a flowing experience both in the watcher and the accomplished skater. In this short test I am trying to capture the imaginary line that surrounds the skater.....

I took the film and with some work in after effects managed to capture something special. Clearly Mclaren has influenced me but it is not simply an aping of his work. The choreography was geared to getting this shape......and to giving me another view of the dance. I have made clear choices about the time between repeat frames ( 0.5 seconds)and slowed the whole sequence down for maximum effect.

I worked on another section of the dance, not shown here, where 1 second separates the multiple image repeats but it is not as effective...and yet it shows something different in the sequence...and it definitely has some possible use for future....

next phase for the storyboard

From the storyboard I have worked on an animatic. Pinning down the timing was a great process.....and the music and images follow the plan . And again I dwell on the process of the choreographer in comparison to that of the animator. I think the feedback for the choreographer happens more instantaneously as there is an opportunity to watch a playback as you go along. However this will always involve having your dancers with you to perform the sequence you have been working on. You can film of course and look back at it afterwards and in a sense you can edit...which will involve another major rehearsal time. And you can then imagine how it will be with light...but you would have to have  a technical rehearsal with technicians and dancers to verify this. It does not generally involve sitting at a computer although some choreographers have done this. Merce Cunnungham worked with a choreogaphic tool and John Anderson has also developed a computer tool for choreographers.

Anyhow, for the present, animatic is the method employed at this stage in the game...that has been frustrating and exciting.....I am making great progress in the edits and realise how much I have learned...but in the end it is vital to practice what you have learned at the next possible opportunity. Again the parallels with dance are clear. If you do not practice what you have rehearsed there is no chance of that memory reaching or staying in your muscles. So when I meet up with Malcolm to learn more it will be a two day tutorial ..with a heap of practice between!!

So here is version 1 of the animatic

script development

This was the first draft of the story which I used to develop the ideas with the composer and the dancer.

Norman's Skates

1.Title page
2.Skates appear
3. Norman is seen at the typewriter
3. We see his letter (or hear?) in which he describes skating in 1943
4. Fade
5.We see a skater alone on the ice making patterns on the ice..tall and graceful.
    (possibly this is Norman dressed in icelandic sweater from letter)
6.the ice patterns begin to take on a life of their own, rising from the ice to make patterns in the air
7.the loops become a dancer
8.a second dancer joins to make a pas de deux
9.A hen is briefl;y disturbed at the edge of the ice is sprayed up to accompany the scene and one dancer becomes a swan.
11.the swan flies off
12.A final loop(from the remaining dancer) on the ice becomes Norman's signature
as the dancer disappears
13.the letter is folded and put into an envelope
14 Norman stands puts on his coat and picks up the letter a multiple image

This gave Finn a really clear idea of where the film was going and of the key images within it. the music he produced as a result is beautiful and we have been working with this music.
The script has changed a little as we progress...some things seem not so relevant while other parts seem suddenly more important to emphasise. I am sure we will change things again as the process develops and I decide what is possible (and probably impossible!) to achieve!

Habitat and Iain Gardner

Last year I was introduced to Iain Gardner's work and watched this clip of his work with a dance company in Dresden. At the time I was in the early stages of my course and not sure of my direction. I met Iain first in Stirling while at The University of Stirling Archive when he came to meet up with Karl and Don McWilliams.
There was not time then to go into his work as we were all discussing Norman McLaren and his upcoming centenary, but I went away and looked at the video he made about the process and how his thinking had developed on the links between animation and dance. Now of course this is totally relevant to me in my quest to collaborate between both art forms, and I feel I could benefit from a lengthy discussion with Iain on the topic.

This clip on process really is a mirror on my thinking!! What a shame that he was not still teaching on the masters course!!
He was at the 2011 dance film festival in Edinburgh and I went along to hear him talk about dance in animation.He also has looked at McLaren's work very closely and argues that animators in some ways are dancers. He was very open about the problems he encountered in trying collaborate with dance. This is a (dance)journey which for him has only started and which he will be on for some time!
I feel I could learn a huge amount from him and will endeavour to meet up with him again during the next phase of my work.

Film trailer from Habitat 2010

edit re-edit ..up skill...

Working with drawings and film in the edit for hours and hours over the last few weeks.....trying to decide what works and what does not. Nothing to show really at this moment. There are two moments in my film which will require a lot of attention...and as yet I have not solved the issues of how best to tackle them.
So far I know how I want it to look and so the tests need to see if this is possible. I feel I have learned so much in the process about edit skills so the practice will never be wasted.

In finding the poses I lost some of the quality of the original                
 but this is is still an experiment at this stage. Always need to see how these will look in film.... I have booked up a session with Malcolm next term as I have identified a need to upskill in a few areas mainly edit and film. I have also now identified a few potential team members for the next phase which is great.

I sometimes feel my expectations are set too high..and so I am often dissapointed at how slowly things move on. I expect this will change with a team. Sometimes I am reminded of that phrase..The more I learn the more I realise how much I do not know!!
I am itching to get back to filming more dance in better conditions tho.

There are just so many problems to solve....
tho I realise I am not the only one who can do that ...             
and I need to ask for help more often!

It is all such different process from choreography but I am really enjoying the challenge of it. It is amazing to examine my choreography in this detail...frame by frame as it were. De constructing movement in order to re construct it again. Once or twice I have also wondered about the motion capture experiments which did not ever develop. It is a shame that we did not get to Ninewells to pursue this as I would have liked to see what this produced. I have heard that there was some dance work done there very recently and I am hoping to see the results

For the meantime I have to work with my choreography and constntly try to find ways to integrate it with animation in order to visualise how both can portray emotion.....and ideas. It is in the end all an exploration of how animators use movement and how that is comparable with how I as choreographer use movement. Finding the common ground and then crossover value is going to be an ongoing question... Back to the drawing board..... edit re edit and up skill!!


Saturday, 3 December 2011


Having narrowed down the script somewhat since the original draft ... now have a storyboard to work with...and have been working with for a few weeks..a few new image shave made their way into this.

The first is the use of one of my horizon/light/water photos...originally done to explore the light around the areas where McLaren went walking and which he said influenced him greatly in his pastel animation scenes from films such as La Haut sur Ces Montagnes.
I visualise a swan taking off from the water across this skyline has become a symbol for me of transformation.
My exploration of these skies also has some relevance in my search for evocative scenes which stir emotional response.

The second addition is the photo which was accepted for exhibition and which I felt reflected the exact light Mclaren found within that same film. I have here added my version of the face in the sky.
As I write this I wish I could now have a dialogue with Norman!!
My version is Scottish rather than canadian...but the face seems Greek to me. This was meant, i am sure to represent ancient folk tradition which is the basis for the set of films mclaren made. I recently found text to accompany this scene which describes a skier returning from the mountain and stumbling across a little hamlet where there was folk song and dance going on in the ancient tradition.

Next was my version of a McLaren first i wanted the hen to be disturbed at the edge of the ice...then I thought maybe he could feature near the end...and he appears in the storyboard but I am still not sure about him(or her)..I have discussed this with lots of people who were generous with their feedback and criticism.....I am not sure if the image is congruent with the overall feeling so far....maybe instead the hen could look more like one of Norman's original drawings from the book??

This hen has a slightly more comical look...and could easily become the line again since it is one continuous line itself...this is my version of Norman's ..tho my original idea was to hint at his 'trademark' feels as the film idea progresses this gets more irrelevant.

Norman is in the essence of the film...but maybe the audience do not need to know that?

maybe it is enough that I have explored the hen in all its guises..and not necessary that it is around......

Thursday, 1 December 2011

drawing the choreography

I have taken the film of the choreography and been working  on finding which sequence I want to use for animation. I also looked again at Norman's dancer drawings. The idea is that these drawings also contain the spiral shape which I want to use from the skating patterns

In the end this particular position is one I really like in both the live action film and in the drawings..After adding the spiraling line around the figure I felt this could work for a transition point..where the dancing figure begins to appear from the ice................from the loops and upwards...............this must be a next step to try.