Projection experiments

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Starting the animation process requires a bit of set-up organisation.

A projector, this is a dinky Phillips pico with 55lumens



An easel and a large board



Paper, my favourite newsprint


Conte Crayons, just in 3 colours

Sprinkler – to create the coloured powders


So I set all of these items out next to my computer so I could control what was projected and started on the newsprint paper that I love using for Life drawing… and here was my first problem, the newsprint really doesn’t take the powder I sweep onto the feather and onto the paper to make the relief imprint…


So I needed different paper, the only large paper I had was A2 size cartridge paper, lightweight and fairly smooth..

wpid-dsc_0372.jpgSo I began working in the feathers and simple lines and another problem rears up, because I am working on an upright easel, the powder tends to ‘drip’ down the page, unlike my primary experiments when I was working over the top of my page.



It doesn’t turn out to bad…


Then I look at another of the flying reference images I have…


beginners mistake! I will need to re-set out my easel and space so I keep in mind the top and bottom of my projection images.

Also will need to test different paper, to find the best feel for the feathers and powder marks I want to get into the frames…

I will be testing watercolour paper, thick cartridge, cream cartridge, craft paper and something called student cartridge later.


I really like the way it looks with the projection

wpid-dsc_0368.jpgThere may be an opportunity to colour the areas digitally with a light transparent fill once the animation is perfected – I did want to keep it minimal though.



Étienne-Jules Marey , Chronophotograph of a bird in flight


Étienne-Jules Marey (1830–1904), Chronophotograph of a bird in flight.

This is a lovely photo capturing a bird in flight, but the images are reproduced together…

When my animation is projected I would like it – if it were possible – to have the animation appear over itself, so that you could see a moving representation of the whole shape of the flight.

This would happen when the trigger is stepped upon more than once, up to 12 times, so as not to muddy the shape, but to make the form more beautiful.

So as above, but moving and flowing across the installation, and again similar to the Geoffrey Mann glass sculpture in the Norwich Museum.


Charcoal, Feathers and printing…

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After testing out getting feather texture into plaster, I wondered how much texture I could get into the hand-drawn section of animation, so with my trusty charcoal and feathers in hand set about experimenting..

I was very pleased with the results, now I have to figure out how to consistently incorporate this beautiful texture into my animation..

One thing I need to bear in mind though, the last set is on the newspaper that I like, and it doesn’t fix quite so well, or have the lovely texture of the cartridge paper…

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Plaster, Feathers and imprints

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Friday was my first opportunity to get into the 3D workshop and I wanted to try 3 things, carving polystyrene, skimming the polystyrene with plaster to see how smooth I could get it, and somehow getting feather texture into the plaster itself.

I started by carving the polystyrene, that went fairly well, I’m confident I could get the rough shape carved into a large block of poly, then I skimmed it with plaster.. I made the plaster to thick though so it went of quicker than I had anticipated, but the half I was happy with I could see would be smoothable. Also talking to some of the BA students putting up their final plaster pieces proved that smooth was possible!

Then i used the thick plaster to try and get feather prints into, but that has mixed results, so a final test perhaps using plaster to impress and making a plaster mould from that would be more succesful.. but this I won’t know until next week when I can get back into the studio and release the plaster from their moulds, as it wasn’t quite set when the 3D studio was closing..

to be continued…
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Presentation Day – Interactive, Augmented, Audio Installation

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Masters Presentation Day loomed last week and in my presentation I made a positive effort to be less technical , use less jargon and not to dig down into the wires and connections that will make my installation work… I wanted to concentrate on the visual and audio research I had already undertaken and the beautiful animation style I hoped to output for my final piece.

So I put in my outline

“I am interested in line, form and movement, particularly figuratively using rotoscoping, but want to use current technology such as motion sensors and augmented reality to introduce interactivity”

but on reflection it should have mentioned that I want to add more dimensions, whether it’s layering sound or adding extra texture into the animation, I’m looking to use hand-drawn lines using charcoal and newsprint and trying to introduce actual feathers into the artwork/animation/model to give it ‘real feel’ .

and I should have delved into the Augmented Reality and projection mapping a little more to give a  rounded background to the project…


This link if for a PDF version.

Here is the first sound file from Norfolk Brecks

The sound from Salisbury Plain.. unfortunately not clean as the wind sock wasn’t on and the cows made a lot of noise, just outside the hide..

The animatic flight video


Great Bustard Call



and the link to ‘Thought of you’ for animation charcoal style

<p><a href=”″>Thought of You</a> from <a href=””>Ryan J Woodward</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>



Great Bustard Photos

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Now edited all of the images from my visit down to Salisbury and uploaded onto my Flickr stream.



This first image is of the group of 5 males.


A closer view of the two older males


One of the elder birds, pink 2, starts to display


My best photo of the day.

I was surprised at just how tricky it was to get a good shot of the Bustards, I expected my 80-400mm lens to be spot on for the job, I knew the hide was 300m away and assumed I would have enough zoom to get some lovely shots.
However added into the difficulty was the actual movement of the lens itself when focusing, which I did turn off and gained some slightly better shots, and the amount of movement from pressing the shutter button, on such a long lens made for quite a few soft shots, very frustrating.
All the shots were held on just a monopod and I sincerely wished I had brought a traditional tripod, but I didn’t know the terrain or how much space we would have.
What I really wanted to get was some footage of one of the Bustards taking flight, but viewing them for over an hour, it was quite clear that they tended to strut around more than anything and being such large birds would tend to conserve energy for only real emergencies.

Image from Mike Ashforth, Birding Yorshire

Image from Mike Ashforth, Birding Yorshire

This image from Mike Ashforth was what I hoped to come back with, but my photos are very far away from this stunning image taken in Spain.


As you can see from the video on full zoom the image moves even though I am trying my hardest not to move a muscle, but I did capture one of the birds giving a good flap to reveal what it looks like under his wings.

The link below will take you to the full set on flickr.

Great Bustards in the wild

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Over the last few days I travelled down to Salisbury Plain to visit the Great Bustard re-introduction site…

When I arrived it looked like this…


So I didn’t hold out much hope for actually seeing the Bustards and after a 200 mile journey down to Salisbury was feeling a little deflated.

Lynne from the Great Bustard Group (GBG) turned up in theland rover and we waited for a while for the last two visitors.

wpid-wp-1399106508274.jpegThe view from the landy as we approached the hide.

Off in the distance I could see a small group of birds, which did turn out to be the Bustards.

Lynne told us that there were only 13 Great Bustards at the moment and half of them – the females – were hopefully off sitting on nests, so the small group of males were the only birds to be seen.
The hide is 300 metres from the release pen area which the birds enjoy coming back to and a particular clump of grass seemed to be their favourite spot.
We could see 5 young males and another younger male off to the left, besides the 2 decoy birds that the GBG use to tell the Bustards that this is a safe area to be. They are fenced in here, although they can fly free anywhere on Salisbury Plain and have been known to be found in France.

As we sat in the small hide, the cows who shared the same field obviously use the hide as a bit of a toy and proceeded to push shove, scratch and eat the wood, especially on the corners, so it made it very tricky to record any useful sound, but I did get sense of the space and what the surroundings should sound like, so below find my best 3 minutes, but please excuse the snorting, rubbing, scratching and general cow noises…

So, it’s an open space with summery background birdsong, the odd crow, but a real sense of a wide open green area.
We only had an hour in the hide and it went all too quickly, but off we went to their little shop and headquarters just back from the release pen.
In here they had the most fantastic stuffed Great Bustard, which Lynne was kind enough to turn round for me to get a good photo up close.

wpid-wp-1399124290543.jpegThe little shop was amazing and stuffed full of stuffed Great Bustards and clothing, and you could even buy Great Bustard beer!

I must say a big thankyou to Lynne, who helped me sort out the visit and has been more than helpful in any contact I’ve had with the group, and has amazing landrover driving skills as we squirmed and slid through the muddy bottom gates!

Great Bustards – live!

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So after having a bit of a nightmare trying to book my planned visit down to Salisbury, it’s set up for next week, Lynne at the Great Bustard centre was really helpful, but apparently the enquiries email for them doesn’t go through to her it goes to Dave who is out of the country quite a lot, so my visit is a week late, sorry Suzie, no tutorial for me this week. But I figured gathering real live research on my chosen subject was better than not having anything to show…

I need to have this evidence in the background for my project, it’s absolutely imperative to have first hand photos and video and sound and to have been to the site where the reintroduction was chosen to most closely replicate their favoured habitat. It will give me understanding and more of a connection in a way nothing else will.

This puts a lot of pressure onto the visit though, I get a time slot of 2pm and 90 minutes in the hide, if I can’t gather enough, it’s not feasible to pop down to Salisbury every week to try!

I have my kit in place, a Nikon D7000, 80-400mm lens, monopod (essential with such a long lens), spotting binoculars and my little H1 Zoom, plus it’s own baby tripod. I don’t know what sound I’ll gather as the hide is 300 metres away, but it will hopefully give me the habitat sound that I’m after.

Obviously I would like to get some physical recordings from the birds themselves but, not on this trip. I will speak to the guys there and explain my project to see if there is any way of gathering closer sound…




Analysing the sound

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From the sound I gathered yesterday I wanted to see if my recorder – H1 Zoom – could pick up and reproduce the feeling of being in different size open spaces and I tried to record from very different spots.

At one point I was completely in a row of pines and the sound of the birds was muted and softwpid-wp-1398351324909.jpeg


listening to the sound file actually recorded without any tinkering doesn’t give the feeling of an enclosed soft outside space it just has very little sound and it’s as if the birds have been ‘turned down’ . It’s quieter overall and feels separated from the environment…


The bright vivid sound from right in amongst the wooded area has a much more lively tone and clarity and closeness of the birds.

admittedly that’s exactly where I was standing, but the sound I need for my project needs to tell of a wide space as this is the Great Bustards’ preferred habitat.

The Brecks used to be like that but the pines were planted to act as windbreaks to prevent sand and soil storms.

Measures were taken to protect the topsoil during the 19th Century, with farmers planting lines of Scots Pine trees as windbreaks to prevent sand and soil storms – a notable landscape feature in the Brecks today being the distinctive ‘pine lines’ of twisted and knotted pines that resulted from these pine hedges, which have grown wild.

A few places still exist being more heath like, like Weeting Heath.

The stone curlew is a UK Biodiversity Action Plan species and is also currently on the Amber list. Numbers have risen over the past 15 years due to partnerships being created between wildlife conservation bodies and landowners to identify and protect breeding sites. The stone curlew is also afforded special protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and the EU Birds Directive. Areas where stone curlews are found are designated as Environmentally Sensitive Areas. A key conservation management system at the NWT Weeting Heath reserve is maintaining a healthy population of rabbits. These grazers keep vegetation shorter than 2cm to provide a suitable habitat for nesting stone curlews. link to website

I will look into visiting Weeting and seeing what a wide open space sounds like, will it be an absence of sound…or will it be something else, I can’t quite imagine it, the differences are so subtle that our ears and physical senses come into play with associating sound and place and space. This will need to be very much considered for my exhibition/installation.


Bird Sound – Santon Downham

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For my installation I want to envelop the visitor in the sound of the outdoors, to make them feel as though they are really there in the Great Bustard’s environment. Originally they lived in the Norfolk and Suffolk Brecks before becoming extinct.


Label reads: Great Bustard, Otis tarda: These birds were once numerous in the Norfolk and Suffolk Brecks, but became extinct as a British breeding species in 1832. Unsuccessful attempts at reintroduction have been made, and the species today is a very rare vagrant to Britain. (this label is used in the Great Bustard display in the Norwich Castle Museum)

 So I started my search for  ‘the Brecks’ and discovered they are centred in and around Thetford…

The Brecks spans 392 sq. miles/1015 sq. kilometres across Norfolk and Suffolk in the heart of The East of England – one of the driest parts of Britain, a landscape of tranquil forest, open heathland and agricultural land, is home to many unique or distinctive birds, plants and animals.

I continued searching and found these great walks on the council website,

in and around Thetford, reading through them, I chose the Santon Downham long walk as this seemed to pass through a wide variety of environments.

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I stopped at many of the places in the above photos, unfortunately the walk follows alongside the trainline at points and it did interrupt some of my sound recordings.

Also you might note a mysterious low rumble, I’m afraid I was hungry and my little H1 Zoom recorded it!

Listening to the different open spaces, against the bird heavy wood spaces was something I hadn’t thought about, we obviously don’t normally analyse the sound of the space, but it was evident in what I was hearing but could my little recorder capture it?


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