Tuesday, 31 July 2012

progress and reflection

I have had a last tutorial with Sharon, this time in the edit rooms, and we are both happy with where things have got to. It was good to be able to demonstrate to her the learning I have achieved on the equipment ( I have surprised myself too)

Today I went on to bring the still image I created for the website together with the film it came from to make a closing seqence for my film. When I was trying to add the skating animation I realised it was not the right size when it would not render so I had to go back to the file and re size it then import it all over again as a movie! Once I had this done I then discovered how to change the aspect ratio and a good way to add something to half the screen e.g. text or animation. I also worked out how to change the colour of it tho in the end I am not sure it really works here with the skating feet....will decide at the end!!

Technical problems still...my own computer is not recognising files I have imported as movies. So not only can I not edit at home I can now not look at films either! And when I took my most recent animation to line test it the pc had switched off and no one knew the code to get into it ( the cable had dropped out) so I had to go search for Sean or somone who knew the code!

I have done one more piece of film for the opening sequence with Anya, the last dancer I had agreed to work with.
The studio has been great and I will be sad to give it up...I realise that my work probably sits mid way between film and fine art. This means different needs and I feel I have managed those well. I certainly found this an inspiring place and a better place to focus. The photo was mid way through light tests on the costume.

Monday, 30 July 2012

getting there

Having created one image on photoshop for the web I could not resist looking back at the many I have captured to see if they could be used in any way. Another huge skill for me. Also a lesson not to throw away any material...excellent for a hoarder like me!!! I will not be using this particular sequence with Mya dancing but I love it and maybe it will be part of a future continuation of Norman's letters!As a still image it captures perfectly the Hermes letter

"I do not know how to express the joy I felt"

And by a quirk of fate I read a section of Norman's drawings book and his words about  finding himself unable to say all he wanted to in words so he started using little drawings in letters. It feels to me that I am extending this idea into using dance and images in place of words.

Someone asked if there was going to be any narration...again I could quote Norman and say that words would spoil it!!

So I am getting there

I have a list of to do things each day and just work through it all...well not usually all ..some make it on to more than one days to do list! Mya's dancing has so much energy that I am glad I have two pieces of film of her and in the end I have chosen the other piece, not the one this image comes from. This will be paired with sand animation as a representation of the sea journey across the atlantic that Norman made in October 1939. I will also use Link's animated piece with wings for the sea hawk letter section. I think I need to make it a little more abstract to merge the wings and make them look less 'tacked on'. I could probably try adding some colour too.

I need to work on the swan too...and then draw up a list of credits. Actually I have been doing this as I go along, making sure I make a note of everyone who has been part of this process.

I have a section mixing water with dance and although I was sure this would be used I now have doubts. I can see my problem is what to leave out...not finding enough work to put in. A good problem to have tho...

Saturday, 28 July 2012

more reflection

Where have I come from?

 I have come from a dance background, with no film experience except the odd home video and high school drawing level. Initially I wanted to make a dance film which in some way reflected Norman McLaren, his relationship to me, his love of dance and which looked at a new story about him. In his letters I found a description of him skating which led me to wonder how he viewed movement, not just in animation. He seems to suggest that he would like to have had that opportunity, and I felt I was exploring something about his kinesthetic awareness in my work.

Where did I go?

 I began the masters by discovering the course I applied for no longer existed and that I had to make a decision between media arts and animation and visualization. I did feel that I would be engaged in visualizing an emotional response to McLaren and although I had no animation experience whatsoever I decided that I would like to know more about the art form which my father’s cousin became so involved in. I knew this would be the biggest challenge. I also wanted to make film so I have had to identify and start to fill in the knowledge gaps. Part of my ambition was to find a story about McLaren which was new and this led me to research the archive of 400 letters in Stirling. I have also made contact with family who are closer to him than I am and soak in personal stories and memories. I found the story and set to work making it into a script for my film.

 How did I work towards these goals?

I learned about script writing from a master class and by trial and error but discovered in the end that I am a good story teller. I have told and re-told my story many times with a cross section of people from producers to writers and dancers to friends. I felt I had a good story to tell if I could master the technical know- how!! I plunged myself into drawing and found that I have a natural ability. This led me to decide to try to include drawing in some way into my final film. The learning curve for this has been steep and is ongoing.
Having refined my ambitions this semester I arranged tutorials in using a variety of cameras, Z1 Z7 and sony HD cam, camera lighting, Final Cut, After Effects and animation. I set up various venues and dancers and began the long process of teaching the final choreography, rehearsal, filming, re-filming, testing lighting and final filming, log and capture and edit. I found all of this exhausting...carrying equipment etc but managed to achieve all I wanted to in the filming. I feel I have stayed true to my initial ambition to make a dance film which capturs and expresses some nature of Norman McLaren as well as beginning to learn about animation process. I have now a multitude of footage and many more ideas for the future.

Having selected the film I wanted to work with and the ideas I wanted to animate I began this semester to link these two together. In the process I also wanted to experiment with whether the ideas I was attempting to visualize were stronger with the addition of animation. This was part of my intention but I feel in some ways I have gone beyond that and there are ideas I feel need the addition of animation.so now I am beginning to animate in response to the letters too.I feel I have a strong sense of visual image and lighting really works for me.I also have really connected with the drawing in a very internal way, and I have found this to be something I want to explore in the future. I think that there is something I could teach animators about connecting with their emotions and physical self which could be of great benefit in producing character animation and emotional material in general.

Why do it all this way?

The main reason for doing this project, however was to find a way to bring attention to a side of Norman McLaren which people did not know. Interpreting and responding to his letters this way has opened up another avenue for discovery. I feel my work addresses a kinaesthetic learning style and the hope is that it will bring a new audience to McLaren over the next two years when we will celebrate his centenary.During the two years of my masters course this has already begun to happen as I talk about my work to a variety of people. It seems natural for me to respond with a dance work.

I have always loved film and to combine this with dance seemed like a natural progression. But to also work with animation is amazing. McLaren talked of movement being his art form and even suggested he might have liked to be a dancer had he been given the chance! Dance and animation are both ways of creating movement and it feels so right for me as a choreographer and relative of Norman's to be doing this. I have a long way to go in terms of technical animation ability and knowledge but I would like to continue to experiment.

 I want to be able to work with film in the future as a way of creating a lasting dance work, which evolves with the filming process being part of the creative act. I also wanted to be able to film by myself in the future so, although I gave myself unnecessary extra work I did feel an intense focus working alone.. Lighting for film is very different from lighting for performance and something I could only discover by trying it out and scrutinising the results.
Aside from this, I wanted to use film as a creative process in itself. I feel that this has really happened. I am aware that I have a long way to go to become a polished film maker but I have allowed my ideas to be influenced by the results of the film and edit. In a sense I am using the edit process like a paint brush…and my aim now is to become more proficient so that I can work more instinctively in the future. I have loved this process.

What point in all this?

The course has extended me in many ways, and has allowed me to examine new methods to employ in my art. I have proved to myself I am capable of learning to a higher degree and my work with technology for film has surprised me.

So what I have learned has many purposes that I can identify and probably some that I have yet to identify. I am extremely critical of my own work in reflection, but am constantly seeking reactions from others which I note. One recent reaction from a writer was that she had not heard of anyone trying to do anything quite like this. I feel, in some ways, and like McLaren, elements of my work have always been pioneering, with me trying new things and making and learning from my own mistakes.  It is very easy in life to be discouraged by others' opinions...but the true creative path is about finding your own route to creating work no matter how circuitous, and about saying things in a truly unique way. I feel this journey is very much in the spirit of Norman.

Programme Of Study

My programme has changed constantly, and research alone opens up new lines of attack every month if not every week. To reflect and reassess is all part of the process.
Examining McLaren in depth led me to look at muscle memory and movement and how animators and dancers use that.
Constant reading leads me always to more reading material, and discussion with others always makes me see things in a new light. It has been hard to talk about my work in public but I have become much better at presenting my thinking in a concise and more understandable way.
My thinking has become clearer, yes, but so has my ability to present my thinking and its direction.
My latest reading is about the 'Molecules of emotion' and the scientific origins of emotion. I am amazed by what I discover and attempt to bring this new learning into my film.
My mission in this last semester was to choreograph and film dance on a particular theme...the emotional qualites described in the letters...to then examine the dance film and to trial a number of animation techniques and film effects alongside this film... to assess whether there is potential in using them, for heightening the emotional impact of the work.
One aim was to present a series of 'vignettes' of dance each with a different additional layer of either animation, motion graphic, edit or after effects.
The story has developed with my research and the letters which continually come to my attention.

Did I achieve what I wanted to?

Initially I thought I would have to to cut back on my expectations in the final leg of this film, but as I have progressed with Final Cut I have actually achieved a huge amount more than I thought I could in January. I certainly can now take and edit dance film which was my first goal. I know how to make animation in a number of different ways, some slightly unorthodox, but animation all the same. Again I would like to continue this learning and make the final film better as a result. I have learned so much...I have been known to say I feel like I set out to climb a hill and when I got to the bottom before starting, discovered it was the white cliffs of Dover...very steep, very crumbly...very dangerous. Right now I am hanging by a thread from the top, and the Seven Sisters long climb is still ahead after August. I also now feel I set out on a middle distance run....as a good sprinter...only to discover it was a marathon and that now a sprint is required to finish. But to survive the race it will be a slower sprint than I would wish...but I will need to hang on and cross that finish line, leaving some energy to survive to carry on!!

Kinesthetic awareness?

My journey into McLaren's life and work has taken me in unexpected directions

I believe that although McLaren was sometimes described as being a little awkward in his own movement, that he had an acute kinesthetic awareness. This is expressed in some of his dance film but also in some of his abstract surrealist work such as 'Spheres' and 'Spooks' (one of his first ever films in the 40s). He was a good musician and had strong sense of timing. I compare my own son, also very musical, who could dance brilliantly when he was very young (2 1/2), better than many adults… but had a bad experience in a dance class and was humiliated because he was a boy. He never danced again no matter how much I tried to persuade him but, I think, like McLaren, inside he dances!!
Surely this sketch, which was part of a thank you letter, expresses this idea perfectly. This man knew about dance even if he did not actually dance like this himself. My experience of drawing leads me to believe he could have been a great dancer if he had ever been given the chance!

Does movement ability affect emotional intelligence?

One question that has risen as a result of my masters study is whether dancers are more emotionally intelligent than non dancers and to what extent being involved in expressive movement music and dance can enhance emotional intelligence? I would add to this that to draw movement after being involved in it brings together body and brain in a reflective exploratory way that I had not expected. Should I ever seek to do a PhD It would be on this topic. In the future I would like to teach animators about my journey and to do movement work with them to assist their journeys.

Does my film explore this idea?

My film explores emotional qualities and how they can be conveyed in dance, animation and film. During my journey I have tried many combinations of film and animation, film dance and after effects, and have found great potential for heightening the emotion within the film. I would like to continue to explore this in my work and to use both film and animation. I have many ideas about re presenting this work with live dance, with two screens splitting the animation from the dance film and having a dancer on ice! All of this is too ambitious but hey! I can dream still.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

public image

my task today was twofold.

I had to create an image for the masters web page which I felt would communicate my film well.
As I prepared to work on this in edit my share account announced it was full! I am not an expert in computer skills and it had not yet occurred to look at this every day. However now it has happened I see it is one of those learning curves that has given me knowledge which will now stay with me. Well I am hoping all the knowledge will stay of course but this is a mistake I will not make again in a hurry!! I thank my stars that it happened now and not in another week!That I was not mid edit but working on a side issue.
I duly purchased a portable hard drive which I will keep for film ( and Mac only!) and got back to work on clearing up the space. It has been useful as I would have to be doing it anyway...maybe just not now...and it serves to make me locate all my film and any material I may need in this last two weeks.

I have found it quite difficult to get rid of material tho as it is all linked...and I have alreday made the mistake earlier this semester of deleting something, to find it had a knock on effect on my other work. And although many peers decried the use of film tape that I have done...this is one situation where I was very lucky to have chosen to film this way. I have all my tapes carefully logged and indexed to use in the future!

So, the film title is settled...another change which I feel reflects the dance the letters and the emotional content...'Affectionately Yours...Norman'...and space is made on the edit share to work...I begin to sift through all my still images which I had stored over the last months for just this purpose (publicity) and try to choose which one holds all my ideas. In the end I make the choice but it is not a fantastic quality of shot so I have to do some work in photoshop to make it special. I choose a finish that reminds me of pastel or paint and sit back to scrutinise it.

I cannot get the idea out of my mind that I have to find some way to include a letter in some form...at first I try with images of me and then Norman writing and then a letter...then it suddenly comes to me!! The dancer looks as if she is writing a letter on the ice...so I set about fitting one or two letters to see what I can achieve. I use Final Cut for this in the end as I now know it so much better than photoshop!! I do not use the letter I had thought I would, but instead choose one I took at the archive which describes a Christmas film Norman made...I had noted it last week and rejected it in another phase of my project as it was taken at a strange angle. But I search it out realising it is perfect for my purpose now...as it appears to be fading into the distance. ( this I must admit was chance as the letter was two pages and I had folded it over and captured one page) I now know, as a result how to achieve this look! It is also on a whiter paper so gives me a much better resolution after working on it than the first letter and the words...Norman's...on it are particularly appropriate as they describe the animation process. He even gives a frame count...3,600 still drawings!!

I am pleased with the results but still see room for improvement. It will have to wait as time is running out to finish the film itself, but seeing this image clarifies many things about the film. And like all creative projects just as you reach the finish you begin to think about the future.

I can already see many ways forward for most of the ideas I have explored in my films. I am looking forward to sharing those ideas with the Stirling University Team and Karl the archivist. But this image in particular carries the emotion of the film and its journey, and portrays the connection between Norman, me and my research process and its outcome in terms of my creative response to the letters. In a sense I feel it is also a starting point for the next part of my journey, and by happenstance a letter arrived today inviting me to get involved with the centenary in 2014 of Norman's birth. One journey will end in two weeks and a new one will begin!!                                                       

Sunday, 22 July 2012

a busy week!

This week has been a bit crazy...the first of many such weeks to come is my guess! On the 16th July I had to search for clips I could not find of Zoe...found in capture scratch...under alicia!!! Then I continued editing and the drawing for the short dance sequence I am adding as an animation. I made them into a short movie to test them.I am spending so long in edit I am frozen by the time I get home at 9.00 pm. On the 17th I drew in the studio I am using...on the wall...and at home. On the 18th I had a job interview...huge!!!...but did not get the job On the 19th I started adding the animation to the live action to test. On the 20th I did one more film sequence in the studio...the last...which went really well.That was after a tutorial in the morning...which also went well. On the basis of the work done this week it is obvious that the film is now a response to a few of McLaren's letters but in particular the ones which signify his leaving Britain for America aboard a ship I now know througjh research was commissioned to take passengers on that journey during the war.(SS Caledonia). I am really excited about having made this journey in creative process and about this new focus. This trip was huge in terms of McLaren's future as it led to his going to join NFB of Canada eventually.The letter he wrote aboard the ship ...many pages...were beautiful in the way they express his feelings. It was a parting but an arrival I believe, to himself. And after all that I had to assist my husband in the running of Big Tent!! cooking for 30 and car park duty!!

Friday, 20 July 2012


Mark Haldane has agreed to help me trial a fall of feathers. I used the drawings I had made and we discussed how it would look. I want a full phrase of music and space to fade in and out so to be safe we agreed on 30 seconds.I also want the feathers to begin one at a time and to increase over 10 seconds to a full fall. I have tested this with the music of course. The original feathers look like this and above is the short sequence Mark has worked on.

Thursday, 19 July 2012


The first small piece of animation for the dance sequence I am working on. I am going to include about 3 times this much and know where it is going. I have already done some work on adding it with the live action but have had some trouble getting this to be recognised on my pc. some glitch between edit and exporting to quick time. My pc has also suddenly decided it does not want to recognise all elements of quick time...Is it trying to persuade me to upgrade or have I done it wrong...Let's see!! Thankfully I managed to try it out in an animatic...

stop.... rewind

I have made another animatic which I plan to show Sharon at tutorial tomorrow. I have rendered it and looked at it and before I even show it I can see things to improve on.The music is slightly out and the first letter needs to appear later. I need a picture of an addressed envelope and to add clips from letters. After Sharon sees it we also agree that the swan animation needs to be clearer so I have to find a solution for this...I would like to have re drawn the whole swan sequence...and I will now revisit the story board for timing. I also need a second piece of sound to add at the beginning so will go source this! I have a really lovely piece of animation to add too but still looking at how best to show this. I have a list to work on...mainly looking at all the dance footage again and making sure I have made the right choices about animation additions.

Monday, 16 July 2012


Progressing slowly with all the elements of this film!! Thinking now of a new title...The Letter...as the film is rapidly becoming about more than skating and ice! I am also trying to wrap up the feather section. I have to date drawn feathers and watched them fall and of course watched swans. It seems that everywhere I go there is a feather on the ground...I am looking at falling feathers in a variety of ways. Filming them...animating them ( one at a time for my animatic)and looking at others films of them. Mark Haldane just suggested looking at a link. It is lovely. Is it what I want? It seems really close to what I imagined for my feathers falling...and maybe I now have to delegate this task. I would love to spend time working with a team on a project.

Friday, 13 July 2012

edit edit edit

The main task this week has been to refine the animation methods and make sure they will work in edit!
Some successes and some failures!!
The process of taking the still images through photoshop to final cut is laborious like all other processes I have been working on lately! So, for example, the snow film...it does not look quite right in the edit yet ...but I will have another go at that next week...I still have to try inverting the whole movie... There are a few different ways to do it. I will be working on the swan animation in the same way.
Today I have tried to perfect the re sizing process for each still frame in order to get it to fit in my film. Having done that I feel I am in a better position to continue. I am adding some still images too so I needed to get to grips with this. I have also been practicing today with layering those still images and altering their quality both on photoshop and in Final Cut.
I took some extra film last week and was not sure it would work but have now tested the place I wanted to use it...It will work as long as I get my animation to fit too so I am happy with that.

The first shows the obvious join... combining the two...still image and film  I quite like it as it looks a little like I imagined the performance might look with the film shown on a gauze in front of it. One day I will try this.
Something about this still also reminds me of 'The Still Point of The Turning World' which combined dance and sand animation. 

The second is not so obvious ...but the face should definately be to the side rather than superimposed on Zoe's face!This will be a good shot to use in the book tho!

It is a long journey indeed and I feel I am getting near...but the deadline seems soo close!!

I was also quite surprised that the film with Zoe does work. This still looks so like a bird!! feathers engulfing her...hope there is a place for this bit too...but conscious now of how much will not make the final cut...and will stay as supporting material!!

Thursday, 12 July 2012

animation continues

I have been continuing to draw stills to attempt to capture a whole sequence of dance. In some ways it seems a very late stage to be adding anything ...I had a short sequence already...but in other ways it is the most obvious step to take. I need to understand fully how it works and why and when it looks right...or doesn't.... It is a skill I want to take with me when I leave... so very soon. I have also always known about myself  that the more mistakes I make the more I learn. John McGhee's words ring in my ears...Do not be afraid to make mistakes!!! I have tried so many different methods of animating movement and dance in particular and I look forward to the luxury of time next year to take these ideas forward but right now there are some things this film shouts out for. I begin by adding really too much detail and realise quite fast that It risks looking messy.  I also begin to understand the work process as I pare back on detail. So it looks like a bit like this ( this was a slightly rougher first sketch)........for about 50 frames.....

And after I have done 50 or so I begin to really focus on minimal lines to convey the movement. I also feel I want to have something that looks cleaner and can work as an invertion. I would love to have the time to paint them all I decide...colour in my next film!!!

So I cut back to the minimum ...and highlight the lines I want to emphasise...and feel it is loooking better.

Again I find capturing the sense of movement comes naturally...Though I still like the sketchy feel I have in my earliest drawings and plan to do a future animation in this style. Right now I resolve to finish the film in the best way possible in the time scale and not be distracted by drawing styles...

Tuesday, 10 July 2012


I have been thinking about the title of my film and wondering if it still works.
This is another possible option....

Monday, 9 July 2012

studio space

I have moved to work in a black space...to get to grips with a few of the missing film sequences I need and to give me quiet drawing space to finish off the direct animation. It is lovely to have peace and room to be messy. It did not occur to me to paint the wee room I had black...but this is ideal. There is something about having space to create that is so important...and I have found it hard sometimes to be at my best when I do not feel that the space is inspiring at all. Again I reflect that it is more of an issue for me because I am dancing and drawing rather than on computer all the time.
So... first I made a black floor...board and paint... and got the feathers in...then coordinated the dancer...Zoe who I began with all those months ago. We had never managed another chance to complete so this was something I really wanted to do. I also wanted to have stills of her for record and realised the ones I had are not really in keeping with the work now.

               Lighting was minimal...found the shadow interesting...and managed to catch some really good moments with the feathers, hopefully I still have time to include this.

Friday, 6 July 2012


Today I look through all the material I have on the edit account and decide some serious sorting needs to be done. As I go through everything this gives me a chance to take out still images which I will use later for PR etc.
I also spend some time today refamiliarising myself with all elements of Final Cut. Cropping especially is useful for some of my theatre space footage when there are curtains showing etc.
I break off to continue upstairs with scanning.

Later after 6pm I go back down to edit and take one clip I do really want and crop and feather edges...key frame by key frame...this is hard!!! Remembering now to render everything I do and save it where I can find it easily.

I also make a stop motion animation test with photos of blank letters...so that I can add it to the animatic for timing etc.

Thursday, 5 July 2012


The other day when all the equipment was failing...at least that's how it felt... I had to take a long hard look at what I was doing.
I did honestly feel that the snow was taking up too much time and was incredibly humbled by my total lack of ability to sort it!! It made me realise that I could not manage at this stage without the help of technicians...what will I do when I have to leave them all behind!

In the midst of my despair Nuria...a level 3 student... took pity on me and asked me what exactly I was trying to do. I explained that I am trying to perfect a snowfall to add it to my film at a particular point in the choreography in order to highlight a feeling...the dance already embodies this emotion... but I want the animation I add to amplify the sense the dancer gives.

Nuria started to describe making snow in after effects...it will be able to show you quickly ..then you can see how it will look at least!! With mixed feelings...and frustration driving me to accept help and solutions... I followed her upstairs to try find the lab. Moving buildings has been really hard for all of us. Finding new routes to our new studio...getting around the blocked routes...finding all the now shifted equipment...lugging cameras and tripods up a hill and back through the entire building...and for me this time finding the technical crew in their new office, then the lab. So we at last found the lab and set down to look at my clip of dance. Nuria showed me how to set up the after effects for snow and how to alter timing, density, direction etc.

I stayed up in the lab quite a while and looked at other dance clips to see what I could do with these too.
I realised that not all the dance pieces would work for this. Early on in the filming sessions I did some work with a free held camera. Although the film is good, the image moves and this will present problems for me if I wanted to add after effects of this kind. Also in one of the clips the floor is really obvious and of course if snow as really falling it would be piling up on the floor. How would Iget round this? I am not trying to be realistic in any sense and if you have not been involved in creating dance it might be hard to understand this...I suppose some animators may look at my film and me very critical of issues like this. I just have to be very clear about what I am doing and to know why I make the choices I do. For sure they have to be informed choices!

Still so much work to do...

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

film music

I have entered into discussion about the final music version for my film. I have a couple of options now for the final film and have to make crucial decissions about what to cut out and what to keep. Getting the music in its final version is being hampered also by the busy rehearsal schedule of the musician involved.
I have had to very clear in my instructions to him...

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Peer review and photography

Last week when I gave my presentation for peer review I showed this photo of work experimenting with wax. A group of worked together on this and I photographed the results, which we all agreed looked like a snow and ice landscape. I showed it at peer review partly to illustrate that I still continue to experiment and partly because only by photographing the work could we have stood back to look and thus reached this conclusion. Felix had a great idea for using this in my film. I had suggested it could be an alternative backdrop...he suggested it could be an animation backdrop and to try melting the wax slowly and filming the process. Then play the film in reverse. I think this is a really amazing idea...but I know I have run out of time to include it!!

I certainly feel I will use this idea as a still image behind a dance piece, but maybe a film would be good too!

Monday, 2 July 2012

skills and reflection

Perhaps this a good time to review the skills I am learning and think about how I will use them in the future.


Two years ago at the outset of my masters course I used my mobile for photos and any film I took stayed as a small disc impossible for me to transfer to any form of general use.
As a choreographer the development of both stills and video camera work is of enormous value.

My stills have been accepted for exhibition on two occasions and they are incredibly useful as a record of my work. I can see this will be of great value when I am applying for funding in the future and when talking about my work. It provides a fabulous research tool for dance and other areas in my working life and I am already using it to record teaching work in dance.

 I would like to make a good quality photo book either now or after my degree using some of the stills from my work filming dancers. I would like to give one of these to each of the dancers who have assisted me. This will also be  a good record of my journey. If I manage before the degree this is a way I would like to present work. Some of the photographs I have taken will be used hopefully in the final film...which may not be complete till after August.

 I initially used college equipment but have now bought a good stills camera. It has been a very important part of my journey through the masters and helps me to reflect on that journey. I can see many uses for this skill in developing background slides and maybe for printing on costume for performance. I am now involved with a group of women artists ( which would not have happened without the masters I am sure) and I now am able to photograph some of our development sessions and creation...this is new for me. These roots of development will I hope grow in the future.

The video camera work is probably the most dramatic leap for me however.
I chose the masters screendance course originally because I wanted to make dance film.
I have always been frustrated by the transient nature of dance work. A choreography is made and seen in public primarily on stage. The first way to record this was through an elaborate notation system         ( Labanotation and Benesh notation both do this.) Filming is another way to make a record. This in itself is a good reason to learn to do it well. But I was interested in film as an art form in itself and using the film as part of the creative act. Norman McLaren made dance film...ahead of his time as usual...and it inspired me. Pas de Deux has an etherial quality beyond its choreography due to the way he worked with the film. Canon was also a dance film in a way, and Narcissus, his last film, was certainly a dance film.

I have watched many other dance films, in a completely different way. Some are of course merely a record of performance, others use the filming process as a creative tool. This is what I wanted to explore. I feel that my exploration of filming dance and making dance film is really just beginning, and I am excited about this exploration and where it will take me in the future.
My learning so far has brought about many possibilities for this with a variety of equipment and methods.
I can also identify ways of colaborating with film makers. As with all other technical aspects needed for performance work it helps greatly if you as a choreographer can empathise with the technicians.
If there had been more time I would like to have organised a placement with a film maker ...Ian Gardner or Katrina Macpherson or maybe Jessica Langford. Maybe I can do this one day anyhow!

Reading Katrina's book on making video dance has helped me enormously in developing my skills. some of the exercises she sets are perfect for building on learning and for ideas in experimenting with these new skills. Some of the techniques do not work for me however. ( they might come in useful in the future.)

I was especially pleased to find an old 16mm camera which one day I would like to learn to use. Again this highlights how much you learn to focus on the masters journey. the trick is to identify early on which ideas to pursue and which to file away on the shelf for another day!

I did have some lighting experience before beginning the course but it was a long time ago and for stage not film. I have learned so much about lighting this semester. Which type of light to use...in daylight or indoors..angles for shooting...and in experimenting with all these options the learning goes further. My choice of lighting in the end has determined how I am working on my animation to add to the film. It has given me some problems however but I eventually found a good solution for this film. My aim is to have my own kit in the future which is lighter to carry but which I can use at any moment. When you are working in the way I have been...coordinating dancers, lights, space and camera you have to be ready to go at an hour's notice.

Having taken stills I am beginning to use photoshop as research, to make animation with those images.
In putting together images for presentation this has also been a skill to brush up on! I have managed to capture stills from my film too which I will need to work on.

Final Cut
This is one of the most difficult technical areas for me. I am not at my happiest in a dark room in front of a computer screen, and I have had to work extremely hard to get to grips with it! I am always reassured by the number of people who also find it hard. In the future I will have to make a decision about which edit software suits me best, purchase it and maybe upgrade my pc in order to accomodate this! I hope I will be able to work by a window looking out to the garden as I am now!!It has not helped that the edit suites in college are freezing cold even in mid summer due to the cold air fans directly above!! To someone prone to stiff neck this is a challenge. I have often found myeslf outdoors at 7 pm in 20 degrees hot sun wearing winter jackets after editing!
However the rewards are great. It has been a joy to see the film footage come together on screen and to play with qualities of time and light...and thus to choose the best film piece to work with. I have to come to grips with this but am aslo aware that in an ideal world I should have a team of people who are experts in the editing field. In the meantime, I am really enjoying using the edit process to create work in very different way from anything I have ever done before.
The final, and hardest challenge is to bring animation into my film in a way that does not seem out of place, but a natural progression of the ideas within the film.I have already had to re size my stills and to change the format of one section of film.
In the beginning I had not realised how hard it would be to log and capture if I had filmed using a variety of cameras.This was a tough lesson and I was so lucky to have expert help around when I needed it. I know I have given myself an almost impossible task in all that I would like in this film and that I will have to cut back on what I expect to achieve for the degree show, but I really excited about the future and working over the next two years to complete a longer version in time for the McLaren 2014 centenary.
En route it has been so tempting to keep exploring all the things final cut can do but I must hang on to those ideas for after the show. ( and to explore with the luxury of my own time and equipment)! For now I really have to make as complete a film as I can and try to convey the ideas I set out to explore!

After Effects
I have realised that although you attend an introduction to any process you will never fully absorb and learn until you need to use it. I look back and wish I had known early on which tools I would need, but also am aware that if I had learned eveything in great detail I would need another year!
After effects have allowed me to test effects I need and then decide how to achieve them. I am again just at th biginning in terms of the amount that might be used but this is a continuing process of learning and discovery.

My drawing skills have developed hugely since embarking on the masters course.
My first drawings were quite stiff and heavy and I took quite a long time to make them. I also was quite sore!! In the beginning I was using them as a way of re-learning how to look at the human form, but it soon became obvious that here was a skill uniquely suited to me as a choreographer with a steady hand and keen sense of human form. As someone who observes movement all the time both as a choreographer and movement teacher and in my work as a massage therapist, my experience of drawing the body and movement seems to combine all my skills together. Drawing certainly affords an opportunity to look and see the world differently. When I draw I am looking beneath the surface of the everyday...seeing movement in a new way. I have also noticed that I use my muscle memory not only to remember where my hand has been drawing (a skill McLaren and others suggest is essential to animators) but also to remember the dance moves I have practiced myself in class. Soetimes I actually felt I had joined in the class!!Since I know that not everyone has developed such an intense muscle memory, this discovery has made me think about how I might use this in future. I have formed some ideas about leading movement classes for animators. I also have some plans to work on drawing and movement together within one class, for dancers and artists. It would be a great way to introduce each to the other's art form!

I have spent some time at Scottish Dance Theatre drawing class and rehearsal and will continue with this in future. Some of the dancers have said that they really enjoy having me there. I feel very connected with them while drawing, not least because I now know them better. I want to develop some of these sketches into more finished work, which I may offer to be used by the company in some way. Some of the dancers have expressed an interest in this idea.

As part of my programme of study  I wanted to introduce animation into my dance film. I was not fully aware in the beginning that I might be able to do this myself, but this is a skill which I have been working on.
Although my animation will be quite simple, I am choosing to work on something which I believe will enhance the emotional quality in my film. Norman McLaren began art school in the interior design department but once he discovered film he said he could not imagine wanting to back to 'still' art. The natural progression was to make moving drawings...for me as a choreographer to try to make animation has been really interesting. This is reminding me of McLarens interview where he said that his language was movement and if he had been a dancer he would still have been creating movement but in a different way. Again I am discovering how much my internal awareness of movement helps me. The technical leap from drawing to animating is challenging, however. But there would be no point if it was easy!

Animators and dancers both make and study movement... and I have so much still to learn!
For example, I had not really thought about the way gravity affects bird flight and the action of the wings. It now seems obvious to me, but when animating in 2D you have to think about timing in frames per second and movement divided into these frames. So slower movememnt requires more frames. ( slow dance movement requires more muscle control too interestingly enough!) This is akin to movement engineering it seems to me!  I am really enjoying the process. In particular the way I can use this skill within a film which deals with movement. It is a real journey of discovery and again I do not want to curtail the journey after August!!

Engineering skills run in the family, tho my father only passed the obvious (car) engineering on to the boys! I did, however inherit an ability to work things out for myself and a curiosity about the world around me. My father, Norman Mclaren's cousin,was an endlessly inventive human being and always keen to use things in unusual ways.And Norman's nephews also display this trait! I think of McLaren trying to work out all these(film) problems and discovering new techniques on his journey. I have learned to trust in myself much more on this masters journey and to try to be honest with my process. I would have liked to discover some new technique but I feel what I am doing is new.

I have always loved reading, and exploring history, and finding out how things work. I have not had to write in such depth about research for a long time ( and certainly not on a computer...now I am showing my age!)
I have learned to be methodical in my research, again not being tempted to stray too much from the point. I know in the early days of my masters my fertile imagination was a a bit too overwhelming, even for me! It was great to be so excited about studying. Ideas come to me all the time, and one of the first things to draw me to Norman Mclaren was the little drawing he made on an xray of his head, illustrating some of the inner workings and thoughts in his brain. I remember thinking...my brain is a lot like that!! we are related so maybe that is true! But many artists have that kind of busy brain. I know it scares me how many ideas and thoughts race through, and when I am reading I have had to be very selective about what is relevant to my project and to find a way to store for the future what is not.

My first task has been to research Norman McLaren and during that process to try find a new story about him. I found this in a letter he wrote home sbout a skating experience he had in New York during a severe winter when the Hudson River froze. I found this fitted really well with my ideas of combining dance and film so set  about writing the script. I feel that as time has gone on I have become better at selecting material from my research which will enhance my story. I found images of his house near the Hudson, realised that like me he loved views of water (and swimming it seems). I also found images of that view by matching up addresses that he had lived at. As part of the research process I feel I am now able to link things together quite quickly and to assimilate that new knowledge and to write about it. In teeling of my story I have discovered that I am good at telling stories and plan to use my research to begin a book about Norman.
I have recently been encouraged by the response from others about my ideas and the discovery that others want to know more about this story. This would be a huge departure for me...but I feel it is something I could tackle with excitement! I would never have dreamed of this as something I could do before this last year.