Proposal – thinking out loud

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MA task proposal workshop
In preparation for your project proposal workshop please consider the following subheadings and make brief responses (no more than 50 words to an answer ) to the questions below
. You might choose to bluet point or provide lists as appropriate. These will act as prompts in the first session, so please bring these with you to your proposal workshop.

Current practice and research in a relevant field of study
Give a brief description of your proposed project
List at least 5 current practitioners or examples of practice whose ideas or interests relate to your own
What form might the proposed work take

Analysis of proposal methodology
List the main research methods you will employ to inform your own practice
Briefly describe how these methods will communicate your ideas/concepts to an audience client
How will you plan the project and what difficulties might there be in achieving your aims…

Thinking in terms of presenting my MA in the end of year show… I would like to move my rotoscope technique forward to create 4 beautiful animations that I can display a single ‘cel’ of as artwork, but which when viewed through a device you see the film itself, adding to the experience.

I would also like to augment the great bustard, but for this I would like to have an empty exhibit case with a floor graphic, or graphic on the side of the cabinet that also comes to life and shows the great bustard , therefore giving me an augmented virtual show, best viewed through a device, a virtual exhibition within an exhibition.

I would like to trial giving people a small device such as an iPod touch so that they can view it without having to use their data, on the exhibit posters maybe I can get a mention so as to pre warn visitors of the required app name etc.
I would need to be in a one door room so that the device use can be monitored.
Could I get anyone to sponsor me for some more devices?

I have seen an email for a an exhibition in March, maybe I could trial it then?
Make sure my business card is augmented…. Have leaflets so that people can take away and take my art and exhibition with them.
A lot of the people using ar in art are trying to be disruptive, I want to look at art a different way and through a different medium. A new way of the gallery.
Jason ohler

Within the four different shorted like them to be quite different even though they will follow the same style of rotoscoping, using a range of colours this time, so much more in depth but following the rules previously laid out – two colours for the tonal range but using four colours in total.. With a live video background, so filming of the original has to be realistic or it has to be static to take one element and then put on top of the other.

I would want to explore movement much more, so a dance piece, could I have a surround sound system with a low beat. that when other images are triggered the sound that they play combines with the soundtrack already playing?

ASU1 – extra

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Reviewing the footage late last night, I really wanted to have another go at 3D motion tracking, I had the inspirational idea that I would like to put the title of the film, ‘Just one more place to look’ within the scenes themselves and for the character to walk past them, so have spent all morning, trying to make this work.

In After effects there are many ways of tracking, you can track the motion, the camera, or 3D track either, so I have gone through each of the parameters to attempt to track the background live action scenes in my film, I started with the rotoscoped section, but AE couldn’t even start to analyze that and then brought the original live action sections into AE, thinking that would be better, but although it can track in 2D, I’m mostly doing that by hand, and the 3D doesn’t get it at all… see screen below for what I’ve been seeing all morning!


But still wanting to add the title of the film and to get some more motion tracking in, I decided to hand track the final fade out and put the title at the end.

This is again reinforcing the cyclic nature of the endless walking, round and round, with the perpetual ‘one more place to look’ motto for my main character, I think it’s an improvement on the original, but this is where another crit would have come in handy!


….and no Youtube I would not like you to stabilise my shaky footage – it’s supposed to be like that!

shaky foot

ASU final film

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Here is my final moving image piece for the ASU1 module of my MA.

Roughly titled ‘Just one more place to look…’

 I couldn’t leave my film alone on the final morning, so  please also view this page for a final update that I squeaked in just before the deadline!

The digital ‘cel’ look

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I have spoken quite often about the technique I used for the illustrative animation style in my ASU1 film roughly titled ‘just one more place to look’ , I work on  a wacom tablet, and have done for years, as this gives an intuitive and freehand feel to any kind of graphics that I might create, many years ago when I first used illustrator I remember struggling with the anchor points and the vector pen tool, but now it’s almost as if I am drawing with a pencil.

Whilst on my BA degree course I did a lot of life drawing and my favourite technique was just picking two colours from my oil pastels to denote the planes of the figure in front of me and I was so successful at this, one of the examiners asked why I was doing animation when he thought my life drawing was the star of my degree show.

Now with these many years of the above techniques under my belt I can very quickly interpret figures into coloured planes with a highly stylized and effective result.




these images were created to show the diversity of courses at City College for a poster campaign and show my technique at it’s best, not photographic, but recognisable with a style all of their own.

This is where the look for my animated character in the film originated and throughout the 1286 hand-drawn frames I tried to make each and everyone as a beautiful ‘cel’ in it’s own right.



A still from the market scene.


Still from the church walk section.


Still from the slope rotoscope section.



Still from the subway section.



Above is a screenshot of some of the hundreds of thumbnails I produced.


ASU Film complete? – maybe

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I am just rendering out my final film for this ASU module, I’ve re-recorded the voiceover and as well as adding in an extra phrase I have separated the verses of the poem out so that they sit in a better rhythm with the visuals.

Tweaking the visuals in after effects to lessen the greyed out sections so that the viewer is not too disorientated.

When analysing the film today I decided to remove the section where the character walks away from us down the small alleyway, it just didn’t fit with the look and feel of the other sections, so not to totally discard the hours rotoscoping it, I used this as my end credit sequence and motion tracked the walk in After Effects with my name and the piece of music that I used in the background of the piece.

ss_tracking ss_trackingText

I really like the way the film looks, I love the style of the animation itself, all sharp lines against the out of focus bokeh of the background.

Hurrah it’s finished rendering.. oh blimey it’s come out at 21GB.. better re-render that then…

I’m not sure if I want to put in tracked text sitting in the background, firstly against the poem I don’t know what to put, even though I really like the idea Mark Wilsher had for using the narration as the main character’s internal monolgue and the appearing text as another voice, or question, but secondly I don’t know if it needs it now the extra narration is there.

If I have time I may do a short test, I only envisaged the text being one or two words at the most and now that I’ve tracked the credits it will be a similar process, although it does add more nested comps into the equation…

Left to do…

Evaluation proper

Learning Agreement

Hand in!

Alpha layers, sound and final feedback

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After finishing the digital ‘cell’ animation (all 1200 of them) I put them back into after effects into separate sequences, which I bring into a top level composition to assemble. It was at this point I realised that one section of live action had not been rotoscoped… Unfortunately with the final feedback session due the next day, I knew I would not be able to turn the extra 138 layers into vector animation in time for the crit, so decided best plan of action was to carry on with the draft assembly, knowing I would complete the rotoscope animation later.

Next I assembled all of the alpha png files into separate comps to overlay over the full cell animation so that I could fade the background in and out, adding to the film another level of disorientation.


Making the alpha files is a fairly easy thing to do after I have done the full cell illustration, it’s just time consuming… I isolate the alpha layer and save it out as a .png, which supports an alpha layer when brought into other adobe software, and again, repeat, repeat repeat…


another 1200 files later and it’s ‘comp’ped up into after effects, ready to play with.



I had tried and tried to create a script for this film, but was unhappy with the results… After reviewing the footage against the little bit of music I felt it needed a poem or a short narrative voiceover and after playing with cut up poetry, looking on all manner of poetry websites, finding snippets of prose that I liked, sometimes just words, or figures, or rythmns, and after much deliberation I have been able to produce a piece to use for my voiceover…

Walking, walking not quite alone

Searching, looking on the way home

a shadow of me both revealed and lost

my life is split, no matter this cost

This route I take I know it well,

 if my memories could speak what mine would tell

of me,

or me,

of both of us

lost in cycles spiralling down

our fate is framed by constant frown

The call we answer isn’t real, it’s in our heads, it’s what we feel, day after day we tread this road,

 our never ending mental load.


Appearances can be deceiving, eyes, feet, walk, all misleading.

Life was once bright and clear,

but now I trudge along in  fear

of who and what and where and when

we know our lives can’t fly again.


Now released into the wild

our minds are dark, unfurled, defiled

but walk this way we must repeat

 in case our life we find replete.     TT 2013

I worked on the sound in Logic Pro, I recorded my voiceover at home using my ZOOM h1, rendered out only the audio layer from the original scenes in Premiere and imported this live sound from each section, to this added the track from bonobo which I had in mind from the very beginning, I wish I could have recorded my own version, but time was running away.

Screen Shot 2014-01-12 at 15.50.14

I quickly output a movie file from aftereffects of the visuals so I had those to work too for timing, but I only had time for a quick mix, but after outputting my bounced file into after effects it was time to fade the background visual in and out – this is only experimentally done here – check the sound, check the timings were correct and render a copy for the feedback session.

The first render…


The feedback I received from this were mostly to be expected, the sound mix was extremely low and I think people found it hard to hear, but they liked the tone and inclination.  The visuals – I thought – looked great, actually people didn’t really feed back what they thought about how it looked, ie, the style. Comments were mixed with regards to the fading in and out of the background, mostly positive, but the fades were testing it here, so all good. I need to look at the voiceover itself, the poem I think is too short and as a viewer you’re left too long without the narration, so I’m hoping to add another ‘verse’ in, which should fit the timing better.

The text I had quickly added was disliked, even though the intention was to track the last line of each phrase onto the screen, but it was felt it would work better perhaps as a conversation as the poem is written from the character’s point of view, so this could interact with the the audio…and to try not tracking the figure, but for the text to be on a wall, which the figure walks past…

I will be implementing most of the changes, all positives to my finished film, time is short, but I am focussed on getting the best result out of this, although I am slightly worried it may end up as a bit of an ‘art’ film…which is not me at all…


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So much to do, I’ve borrowed another computer,  one renders whilst I work on the other for the bit of rotoscoping I forgot!

76 hours and counting…


I’m at a point now where I am just about ready to import my animated frames and their alpha counterparts into after effects, it’s been somewhat of a slog and I’m still not there yet, but, I thought I would quickly just stop and look at what I had done.

so far,

1148 full combination vector artwork plus live video… done

380 alpha vector images…done

still to do 768 alpha

if I use my rough calculation of about 2 minutes per image, totalling 2296 separate images when all are exported, that totals to 4592 minutes…

= 76.5 hours…

wow, that’s an impressive time total… but as the title states, and counting…!

and that’s not including the 4 nights of filming… editing… and still trying to write some sort of a script…

first full rotoscope sequence

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After the short test I was so pleased with how it looked I wanted to get a full 30 second scene totally animated, concerns over whether it would work for a longer section were on my mind, considering the amount of time I would need to put into a full test, but I decided to put the time in as I have ideas of overlaying the digital ‘cell’ animation over separate and different sections of the film, so it should be worth it.

To start with I edited down the section I wanted in premiere pro, this ended up being a 36 second piece from the subway footage. Then I imported that edited section into Photoshop getting it to render every third frame as a separate layer resulting in 300 layers and to each and every layer I undertook the process below.

Stage 1 – layer control

first of all I added a new layer above the layer I wanted to illustrate, so that I can use my digital cell with and without it’s original background, working in a  non-destructive process.


Stage 2 – vector path



Then on this empty layer using the vector pen tool I trace around the area I want to fill with colour, obviously starting with the full outline shape, which will be a lighter colour.



then the inner shadow areas, which are to be filled with a  darker colour. I work with a wacom tablet and pen for this quite precise result and like the clean edges it gives you, you have to make definite decisions about where the light and dark will fall on your digital graphic. I have used this style of vector drawing for years, usually in Illustrator to great effect.

Stage 3 – shade and light fill



Then you select all elements in the path that you want to appear as shadows, make it active in the path tool toolbox and fill it in using your darker colour and the paint bucket tool.



then select the lighter area, make it active, which will switch the areas and fill the outline shape with your lighter colour, occasionally small dart areas didn’t fill and would need to be done with a little more accuracy, but it’s easy to spot.



Stage 4 – save out



Set photoshop up to save as into the same folder, to minimise clicks, and save the ‘cell’ layer with it’s film layer as a single jpeg, bearing in mind the finished number would need to be 3 or 4 digits so start at 001, or 0001, as this will help keep them in the right order when you bring the images into your video editing program to put back together as moving images.

Stage 5 – repeat and repeat and repeat and repeat



I found on average it was taking me 20 minutes to complete this whole process for 10 frames and over the week I managed to fit in the 10 hours it required to digitally ‘cell’ animate my 36 seconds of footage.

I did split the photoshop file into 2 sets of 150 (original layers) at one point as with over 400 layers and 2.3Gb is was making my computer slow a little…

But, once they were all transformed into jpegs, I opened up After Effects and imported the 300 files, selected them all and right clicked to create new comp from selection ( this is where the numbering comes into its own) and after a bit of trial and error with how I selected them all (it did at first run backwards 😦 ) they came in perfectly all on seperate layers and for the right duration and this is how it came out…

During the long hours spent over my wacom I came across a piece of music by Bonobo called a beginning, an ending and it had the right mood, so I placed it over the video to give more of a feel to the piece.


Rotoscoping – a first test in Photoshop, After Effects

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After the crit yesterday I wanted to dedicate a morning to see how far I could get with an illustrative styled rotoscoping technique.


This is the still I started with and after setting up all of my shortcuts to minimise clicks, it took me 2 minutes a frame, from start to finish, and here is the result.

I am really pleased with how this looks, love the style and have realised that I have been visualising figurative work with this technique – flat colours/hard outlines – since I was last at college and found great success with painting and drawing, life drawing in particluar.


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