Friday, 29 June 2012

edit reflect continue

The learning curve over the last weeks has steepened! I found myself feeling I ma at the top of the cliff but only two thirds of me are actually on top and gravity is fighting with me while I try to pull the rest of me up!!!
I have bee sortinmg through my edit files to make  sure I do not miss anything and to make it easier to find material. The drawback is of course that things go off line when I change their location but since I am also clearer about the location of things that is not as big a problem as I thought!

After testing a dance animation in the edit I went home and continued to draw more to make a decent length of piece...I find I am also progressively clearer about my choices as the final stretch approaches. I have added a few little sequences which I want to add...for example ripples...and I can see that I am going to be using this skill lots in future!!!

I am beginning to use effects more and find I am now much faster too at sorting what needs to be added and then accomplishing it. I am adding colour to norman's letters...and frustratingly I would like to have a whole lot more time to work on the whole thing. But I guess this is the whole learn something which may change your path and which will provide skills to enhance your creative practice. I certainly am doing that!

A couple of days ago I had a problem with the timeline on edit...some recognition error. This is hard I have no idea yet how to solve such things...but other problems are easier to fix, e.g. Have you pressed the button that says 'NOW'? (Andrew...bless him!) But mostly now it is about testing and rendering and waiting to see the result. During the wait I reflect...and write up the blog of course...and I am rewriting all my notes on editing so that I can cement the learning. I am told however that if I do not use Final Cut for a while I will forget it all...

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

snow and scanners

Back in the studio today rather than edit and a peer review with the group. I felt my own last week went well and I was quite surprised, when I prepared my talk, how much work I have actually done since December (i.e. during semester 3).
I disciplined myself to present mostly work which I had done recently but had to go over the whole plan since not everyone knew the story etc.

Three others presented and I think they are all looking really brilliant. I am looking forward to seeing the show!!!

And after the review I am back working on snow. I have coloured all the images and tested again. Fixing a few glitches on the way. There was a flake missing at one point...but even after I had it all in the correct sequence, somehow one frame got into the wrong place and found its way into blank frames for about 20 frames!! Of course it could not do it by itself...I must have done it...When I exclaimed 'Oh There you are!!' someone with animation experience just laughed! I guessed this was a common problem which I was experiencing. It is sorted now and onto the scan. This whole process seems unnecessarily slow. The studio scanner has to be re programmed after every scan to import through it is taking forever!! I cannot help wondering why it is so slow and if there is not a faster way which I do not know yet.

In fact I just went back to save my last 25 or so scans and the pc attached to the scanner has broken down completely AAAARRRRGGGGGGHHHHHH another wasted hour or two and lost it all....

so I have scanned in the second machine (which is not geared up for animation)just to see the inversion instead!! I like the look and contiued down to the edit room with the intention of placing this slide into film to see how it would look. Unbelievably the computer in Edit 3 suddenly started to go is not my day for technical genius I decided so I closed it quickly in case I lost anything, and beat a hasty retreat to the technicians for help. the scanner in the studio now has a functioning pc, and somone is going to look at Edit 3. Andrew is off sick...maybe the equipment is missing him!!

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

visualising the combination

I have spent hours in the edit rooms...its cold but for the first time I felt I really got to grips with quite a few things. I had a book on final cut with me which I selected from the library sale and which I can scribble over!
I managed to make a start on combining the live action and images of the ideas for animation. I managed also to start selecting material for a show reel as I go along thus saving me time in the later stages...when I will be panicking with everyone else!

here are two solutions for the dancer/ bird/ feather combination

The first Is Links work just to sample what the motion graphic might look like.

The second is a paste up of ideas from my feather and swan images. I wish I had got this far for the peer review but will get a few opinions on these before I carry on.   

Monday, 25 June 2012

how to realise the dance?

I am still trying to add other drawn ideas to my film but I also know I am running out of time!
I looked at a slightly different version of direct animation for dance... but I think this would be hard to clean up. It was good to keep this exploration going however and it still keeps me thinking about resolutions and keeps my drawing alive.

This is one of the last  frames from the short piece, the dancer begins curled and gradually rises up and starts to spin. the drawing does feel quite kinetic.....

Sunday, 24 June 2012

The longest day!

There is a debate about which day is actually the longest...I always celebrate the 21st but recently heard it is the 24th...which to believe...and then I heard actually 4 days in a row are all the same length!
So I was back in the edit rooms again today, after hauling all the lights back the long way round. It is back breaking and I certainly will remember that task...including the day I was parked on floor 5 of a multi storey at Bell St and filming in the Hannah McLure Centre and when I came out the lift had stopped...tell me how you would solve that...(I can't as it was quite inappropriate)...2 cameras two tripods lights stands cd player costume and notebooks etc...

So I was keen not to make THAT mistake again.
In edit I worked on a clip of Alicia which I wanted to try to overlay. I have never quite managed again to get the original effect we had with the really bad quality film of Emily from last year. It was hard to get timing and opacity just right and in the end I may not use this. Then back to the masters sudio space to continue scanning snowflakes.

But really lovely to see the continuity between the two shots here...

debate and description- my journey

Today I had an opportunity to debate with a group of Masters and PhD students from St Andrews university about our various projects. This was a great preparation for the presentation at the end of term. I found myself explaining my journey and expected outcome in a few different ways depending on who I was talking to. In a short space of time I changed my approach three times! I also had the chance to listen to a variety of other projects as well as talking through proposals for future projects.

It is not easy to condense a year of study into a short conversation and with my topic I find it hard sometimes  to expalin in a way that people understand. I know that in the past I have been held back by fear of this so this was a great experience. It made me examine my direction and motives too. Initially the mission was to make a dance work about McLaren, then to add animation, but all along I have asked myself the question " what kind of dancer would Norman have been?
I decided that as part of my journey I am exploring what engaging in kinaesthetic activity means to different individuals. Norman's description of skating is poetic in a way, and his writing displays an emotional, spiritual quality as do his many drawings in the book of drawing. He seemed an awkward character, and descriptions of him by others confirm this, although he liked to keep fit and to swim.

Both contemporary dance and figure skating engage body, brain and also, I believe, emotions. They do this in a very particular way especially when done to music. There is some research into this and in particular into musical activity and which parts of the brain are engaged.

I am sure the work I have done during the masters project will lead to my wanting to research into this area, as well as into Norman McLaren in more detail. The journey began with an image of McLaren's brain after all!
But part of my journey which has been very spacially enlightening and special is my drawing, and one day I would love to do more about the senses engaged while drawing dance!

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Smith home in 1900s

This is the house that Norman's mother Jean lived in just before she married William McLaren. I went to see around the garden for the first time, early in the spring,wondering what the view was like from there. I am sure it does not look the same now but I like to think of Norman's mother coming back to visit her brothers after she got married in 1905.

It is a long distant view and now it is quite noisy as the A9 is close by!
and in the garden is this lovely bench!! Maybe she sat here with her children!
I also spoke to Karl at the archive and the film we found of the Mclaren family in the garden in Albert place is being copied by Screen Scotland. I am really looking forward to seeing it!

Friday, 22 June 2012

Stirling - McLaren's roots

Last night I went to Stirling, to the 'Big Noise' classical music concert in the Raploch. The Simon Bolivar Orchestra played alongside children from the community conducted by the inspirational Gustavo Dudamel.This area is one which has a history of social problems. and I am sure this was the 'slum' McLaren referred to when he talked about his mother encouraging him to deliver food parcels at Christmas. Coincidentally, I also delivered parcels here as a student, but it was Christmas parcel post, and the only problem I encountered was an angry dog I tripped over in the early winter morning!! The area had a 'bad name'and was renowned for trouble, gangs, drink problems, violence etc, but as with many areas similar to this it has a great sense of community. 
The music approach 'El Systema', begun in Venezuela in the 1970s has been pioneered in the UK for the first time in the Raploch. The system targets young children, encouraging them to play instruments rather than roam the streets or watch TV and play computer games.It aims to change lives through music. Children taught through this system  play every day, tutored by top musicians and teachers. Music becomes part of their lives and back home there is discussion about Mozart and strings, Beethoven and orchestras! I would imagine they take these subjects to an uninitiated audience! The trickle effect is being felt throughout the community and the aim is for numbers of people in that community involved in playing amnd listening to classical music to grow steadily. This is how the Simon Bolivar orchestra grew up.

Norman McLaren lived only 20 minutes walk away from this community and I know he would have adored this idea and the effect it is having. He believed in social justice and was sympathetic to the plight of the underdog! He was also a musician, and I would guess he also played music rather than roam the streets as a child.

The concert was wonderful. It poured all night...a strange way to spend mid summer evening, but the memory of the faces of these children and the way they are embrace and are embraced by music will never leave me. To watch the intent as they played alongside...literally as violin playing child sat next to orchestra adult...the simon Bolivar orchestra and glowed with pride and enjoyment was an incredible experience.

I feel music can help people to understand and express their emotions which is why my choice of music is so important for this film.

In fact I have heard that there was a follow up report on the project and it seems that there are now more children who regularilyand  attend stay on at school in order to play music, and less absence or truancy.


All through the last few months, while I have intensified work on elements of my film, I have continued to look at horizons especially on my journey to and from Dundee. It is my firm belief that horizons have an effect on humans. We look into the distance and dream...the many ways we use the word...distant horizons also refers to dreams, new experiences and things to come. I feel that views of the horizon are therefore emotive in their nature and relevant when making a film about emotion.

This photo is the view from my road home across the Tay towards Perthshire (where I grew up).
I feel it captures the contrast between the present...clear and solid in the foreground...and the future only dreamt of...misty and soft in the distance illuminated by the sun breaking through the cloud.

Here I am in the present, but I can see possible future paths lit by by learning and experience during the masters course!

Thursday, 21 June 2012

drawing continues

I continue to draw dance on a regular basis and will make this a regular part of life from now on. I am really fortunate to have such good contact with Scottish Dance Theatre and that they are happy for me to be there. Leila, who left the company recently, but who gave me time to film her before she left, and who appears in this drawing, said that it was very special to her that I was there drawing! She said that I had a good energy which she felt was an addition to the class rather than a distraction...what a lovely comment!                     

I have also begun to make notes on what the ideas are behind any session I am drawing...this really helps me to remember the emotion of that moment should I decide to use a drawing in future.                                 

Tuesday, 19 June 2012


I went back to look through Norman's drawings again to check on one or two pieces and found this! I had not really had it mind at all when the idea came to do the stop motion of his letters but this, amazingly, looks like Norman's own version of letters piling up!! For the future it will be a great reference point to link these ideas together..and to attempt to animate his own drawing!!The real letters dissolving into the animation...

I have so many ideas now that I know I will not be able to explore even a fraction of them for my masters show but it is really exciting to be so inspired by Norman and to be so engrossed in the process. One day, if I can gather a team of people to work with me, I would love to make an extended version of this film!!
Right now I have so much to achieve by August that much of my work will be presented in draft form or as part of an acompanying show reel. If I had a team of animators I would be able to delegate...but now that I have experienced just how long traditional 2D takes I am realistic about what I can achieve alone.

This has not however discouraged me in any way as I still love the look of hand drawn work and the organic nature of drawing versus computer generated work.Give me five years or so...

Monday, 18 June 2012

archive test

I have completed a test for lighting and camera angles, background etc for the possible animation of a group of letters in the McLaren Archive. Cannon camera, focus I am pleased with and generally lighting good. I will include this in my film plan but may have to leave it out at the last step.The plan is to make a stop motion sequence of the letters piling up over the years...

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

motion graphics collaboration

DROPLETS from Simon Fiedler on Vimeo.

 see at... 00.42seconds... clip of shell appearing

Today Link and I have been discussing the transformation of the dancer to a swan and ways that we might achieve this. I have asked him to generate particles in a helix form moving upwards. I visualised that feathers or snow would be covering the dancer and then begin to rise.As they do the dancer would disappear and the swan appear from the snowstorm/feathers and fly into the sky. Link showed me one version of this he has worked on. The motion graphic does indeed look like snow and I suggested experimenting with the density ...termed birthrate... in the programme. There are definitely possibilities here.

This is different from my original idea where the dancer would fly...but I see possibility for that version too.
He has also showed me his development of motion graphic on the dancers arms...looking a lot like wings.

While discussing this Link also showed me two clips from vimeo tutor programmes. One is 'underwater particles float' which resembles clouds of fish and the other was this one above. Droplets. Both are connected to water and this has obvious links with my ideas. water, ice, snow etc. Link explained that the shell here is hidden till the end and I wondered if we could reverse this process thereby hiding the dancer. We agreed that this would be really exciting but probably unrealistic in the time left.
However, brilliantly Link has said he would want to work on this beyond the masters show so even if it can not be included there will be a future place for it.

Friday, 8 June 2012

archive animation

Yesterday I visited Karl at the McLaren Archive in Stirling. I wanted to check in with him on how plans are going for the centenary in 2014 and to let him know how I am getting on with filming etc.
It has been in my mind to animate some of the archive material from my research and placement and Sharon has suggested I should try to find a place for it within the final film. The discussion with Karl was about which pieces might be available and where and when I would be able to use these. We have come up with a good plan... and I will be working on this over the next two weeks along with all the other aspects of my film.

Such a shame he did not get a chance to visit us!

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

prep for animation

I have been looking at the swan and how it will look...I have a good amount of images to compare now so am continuously working at how to put these into animation within my film. I am really enjoying the traditional 2D animation technique and although I have also experimented with charcoal and pastel in direct methods, I will probably not use this method but stick to 2d frame by frame. It is hugely time consuming but I like the control it means I have over the final effect. Since I will have to use the transparent animation paper for this I have been exploring ways to get the effect I am looking for. I had a session booked to see this done but all the computers and scanners were between our old and new studios so I was faced with a choice...either wait or try to work it out myself. So I chose the latter. I really had to work on reversing all the colour in my predominantly white swan. I started with the original drawing I did in pastel and inverted it in photoshop. This produced a rather lovely image but with a lot of blue.




 I then looked at the drawing below...a later pastel sketch...and have had a go at drawing it again on animation paper to see how the pastel would look. I then merged the style of this drawing with the first image from my swan animation but drew it all in reverse colouring, highlighting in black pastel and sketching the outline also in black. The beak in black and face lighter. I was quite excited taking it to scan...only the scanner was behaving badly!! Technical intervention and some time later I scanned and then inverted the sketch in photoshop. I paid a lot of attention to the detail of the head and I am pleased with the result. It will be a lot of days and nights work to get this to become animation but I am looking forward to seeing it.

second swan pastel

                                                       swan sketch on animation paper

                                                             swan sketch inverted


The last few weeks have been taken up filming again...another session with Mya this time in the Dundee Rep Theatre (with great lighting)...and more recently Leila in the dance studio at Dundee Rep with 2 lights on stands.( She left for Germany on Monday). Both sessions provided very different results. The theatre space was great to work in and I felt very at home here reminding me of creating work for stage. I used a different camera here but one I know really well. There seemed to be a little problem with focus and I could not adjust this camera cleanly so left it on automatic focus which meant it was sometimes a little fuzzy however I like the result and think it will really work with the animation. There is an abstract quality to it which is emotive even tho not perfect. It seems ironic, having worked so hard to have camera technique and find the most emotive piece is the one which has faults. Why should that surprise me? Life is not perfect and we feel numbed at times by can be a little boring!

 But as write I am reminded that when I performed as a dancer, the moments the audience appeared to be moved most were when, because I knew the dance piece so well, I could let my self...spirit...whatever you want to call it...go, and release something beyond the technical into the performance. This is the quality I know Nuryev otherness which really moved audiences.( although he was also the most technically perfect dancer!!) So in a way it does not surprise me that the most emotive film is one which I shot very instinctively.

I talked to a few people about this. One suggested that the big powerful cameras create very clean lines...maybe too perfect?Another raised the possibility that I was no longer thinking about the camera and just reacting more naturally. Whatever the reasons, I like this piece best out of all my films.
These are a few rough stills as the film is still a final cut project!!

The footage with Leila is to record her movements. I am not sure this will find its way into my final film, but I was always drawn to her dance style most when drawing at Scottish Dance Theatre class. I was pleased that for this session the film process happened so much faster. Finding and booking space, procuring camera and lights, organising timetable for the dancer, then running through the material to film.

Staging where in the space to work and film. Rigging lighting and setting up camera. All this went really smoothly and we managed to film some great clips. Leila responded brilliantly to the themes I set her and I will use the footage to practice edit and effects. When the degree show is over I will send her an edit of the footage with her dancing.