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Louis Wood Convergence/Divergence Level 5 BA (hons) Illustration AUCB 2012


Contents Paperwork Brief Outline Syllabus Learning Outcomes Synopsis of Study Inspiration Samurai Jack The Provensens Jon Klassen Eyvind Earl Development Folklore/Shadows Initial character sketches Programs Photoshop After Effects Audition Narrative Storyboard The Village The Forest The Cave The Land of Summer

Characters The Protagonist The Shaman The Hidden Folk The Troll


Brief Converge. v.i. - to tend towards or meet in one point or value: the opposite of diverge. Conver’gence – the act or point of converging. Diverge. v.i. – to tend from a common point in different directions: to turn apart. Diverg’ence – proceeding from different directions from each other or from a common point. Focusing on the title of this unit, ‘Convergence / Divergence’, and using one of these words as the conceptual framework for your screen based communication, you are required to produce a short film or sequence of images with an associated sound track. Contemplate the potential meaning of these two words, and how they could be further interpreted and applied to visual outcomes, as your resulting ideas may be a broad interpretation of the theme, ‘Convergence OR Divergence’. The work can be created by any process and can take the form of abstract, representational, collage, hand-drawn, photographic, printmaking, 3-dimensional, film-based combinations.


Outline syllabus: A1 To provide an awareness of how screen-based technologies are transforming the way that audiences are consuming information how Illustration can enhance a specific concept and effect a target audience. A2 To develop your creative solutions and skills in relation to the technology available to illustrators towards a screen based presentation. A3 To inform your creative ambitions with career planning within the digital/technological and inter-active industries. A4 To provide opportunities for you to demonstrate the development of your transferable skills, including self-organisation and problem solving. Learning Outcomes: On completion of the unit you will be able to: LO1 Demonstrate your knowledge of new and evolving technologies for the illustrator and the possible effectiveness for clients and other audience contexts. LO2 Demonstrate your practical application of traditional and technology skills in the creation of a screen-based presentation to peer group. LO3 Apply visual expression, intellectual enquiry and communication within a digital context. LO4 Critically reflect on your approach to the project and the final design solution.


Synopsis of study The fear of the unknown is one of the oldest and most enduring fears experienced by humanity, as highly intelligent and analytical animals it is no wonder that when confronted with something unknown we are greatly discomforted. In the modern age, as a result of intellectual and scientific development we have greatly overcome this fear and can now understand and explain a vast amount about the universe and existence itself. Of course this has not always been the case; in the past that which we did not understand was often ‘explained’ by folklore, myths and religion (this does continue in some respects to this day). My final outcome will look at how diverging from these archaic beliefs leads to a better understanding of the world around us, as well as the resulting higher quality of life. I wish to continue with the subject of Norse mythology that I was engaged with during my narrative work. With regards to convergence/ divergence this would be looking at how the Norse cultures filled the empty spaces of maps with monsters and giants, specifically how within their stories impassable peaks were explained as barriers to the land of the giants and the vast, unexplored seas were attributed as the homes of terrifying sea monsters. It will focus on a character that lives within a secure, yet bleak hamlet controlled by its folklore of the monsters that live beyond its mountainous borders. The main focus will be his divergence from the traditions of his home and his ascent of the mountains to confront what truly lies beyond them. Moving image is not something I have experimented with since I was young, and as a result I am excited to return to it with a greater understanding and much improved visual skill set. I intend to use this project as away of developing my work through the marriage of traditional and digital. I aim to incorporate traditional textures, and original imagery into a digital format much more adeptly than in my work in the past not only to make my work more accessible but also to allow for more effective animation in digital programs (i.e. after effects) that I will be


learning about within the project. The result of this will be an animation with the charm and bespoke nature of paper cut-out animation but with all the benefits and production quality of a digitally created piece. I see this animation as an entertainment piece like the animation shorts created by studios such as Pixar. However I currently see it as being used for promotional purposes as part of my portfolio. My personal goal for this project will be the creation of mood within the final piece that I aim to achieve through an apt combination of imagery and an appropriate soundtrack. To begin the project I have been looking at successful pieces within the sphere of moving image such as the emmy award winning ‘Samurai Jack’ series. This has been my greatest inspiration so far due to its striking and powerful images, especially the expertly painted and powerfully atmospheric backgrounds. Alongside examining animations I have also been looking at films that I greatly enjoy in an attempt to glean what it is that makes me enjoy a moving image piece. Although I am not intending to make a live-action film, or anything nearly as grand as the films I have watched, I believe that looking at the works of directors such as Christopher Nolan and Darren Aronofsky I can gain a better idea of how to create a piece that is both visually and atmospherically powerful. I feel that creating an animation; much like sculpting, from my work adds a new level of reality to my creations and will allow an audience to engage with the characters and worlds I create on a greater level. I feel that the development of screen-based skills is not only the natural progression for an illustrator, but also an invaluable ability with regards to future employment opportunities. The result of this project should be a final piece that will appeal to a wide audience (both young and old) transporting them to the world that I will create, and imparting the idea of striving for a greater understanding of the world around us.


Samurai Jack Background art from the Emmy award winning series ‘Samurai Jack’. The painted backgrounds for the series are great pieces of art in their own right, and fine examples of how to construct atmospheric and cinematic imagery.


The Provensens Beautiful illustrations for a myths and legends book by Alice and Martin Provensen. Great examples of simple yet effective character construction, alongside fantastic composition and the use of colours. Also an inspiration for the use of traditional mark-making.


Jon Klassen Klassen is a master of composition, using textures and minimal colour palettes to great effect in his stmospheric pictures of imagined worlds.


Eyvind Earle One of the most impressive artists to work on Disney’s golden-age of films. An important person to look at in regards to giving an animation a high quality of atmospheric and appealing imagery.


Folklore Folklore plays a major role in my animation, both in shaping the world it is set in and as the main obstacle the protagonist must overcome. My research was based on Norse myth and legend


Shadows The animation title ‘Skygger’ (Norwegian for shadows) is an allusion to Plato’s theory of the cave. Here referencing the idea of how people misinterpret those things that they don’t fully understand.


The initial character designs were done in a loose style with more expression, allowing me dto develop character ideas quickly. As the project progressed and I opted for the cutout visuals I would use in the final the sketches became more architectural, to be used as blueprints for the cutouts on photoshop.


All the final images for the animation were created on photoshop. The process for their creation consisted of making the compositions for each scene out of shapes built with the pen tool, the resultant shapes were then overlayed with textures I had created through ink/wash and monoprinting to lend them a more bespoke feel. Alongside the visual benefits of using traditional textures it also added to the illusion of the animation being a traditional paper cutout piece. I bolstered this effect by creating a fake depth of field by decreasing the saturation and contrast on layers the ‘further back’ they were supposed to be. I also used the


gaussian blur effect to create focus within the scenes. To ground the character within the environments I made sure to show his presence effecting the objects around him. For example the addition of his shadow falling on objects depending on the scene lighting and the creation of footprints in the snow as he walked through it. Layer management was very important to make the project run smoothly, merging as many layers as possible to prevent unwanted clutter in the files, and a name for each layer to assist in animating later.


The key to using After Effects is working methodically so as to avoid any complications later in the process. Making sure the centre points of every image were correctly placed, intelligent use of the parenting tool and well named files were all a great way of letting the work flow smoothly. Alongside the basic skills I learnt in the initial workshop I bolstered my talent base with internet tutorials and forum Q&A threads. The creation of a walk cycle was one of the most valuable pieces of information I learnt, as well as the code for creating repeating cycles. Due to some issues with lost files I had to repeat many of these processes, which has meant an increased proficiency with the program through practise allowing me to complete the actions a lot faster as well. One of the major benefits of working in After Effects is that by being part of the cs5 sutie I could edit all the constituent parts of my animation, including the art with the changes taking effect instantly. The files for each scene were achived into corresponding chapters, which in turn were used to build up the final animation. This meant that I could micro-manage each scene as well as macro-managing each chapter within the animation without putting too much stress on the program, as well as making the construction process much smoother


My only major issue to overcome with Audition was the matching of certain visual queues with the audio, this was fixed by changing the time display in audition to the 25fps that my After Effects was running at. Alongside the voice over at the beginning of the piece I also used exceprts from ‘The Shadow of the Colossus’ and ‘The Shining’ soundtrack for dramatic effect at certain points of the story. The rest of the animaiton was backed with ambient an soundtrack that gave a base layer to the sound effects I was using. The use of sound effects was very sparse to reflect the environment the character was travelling through, with some very subtle layering to add to the atmosphere of the piece.


The Village Serving as the opening to the animation the village locale sets up the bleak nature of the world. Alongside the foreboding opening speech the mood is established through the minimal colour palette, sticking to very cool colours within the white and grey area. This also helps to impart a sense of coldness to the world, which is re-enforced by the harsh wind sounds and the shot of the house which helps establish the sparseness and sense of isolation of the area.


The Shaman The encounter with the Shaman (Noaldi) begins the build tension within the piece, signald by the looming church accompanied by an ominous chant. The appearance of both the church and Shaman serve to suggest the possibility that the folklore is true, and that maybe this is a border the protagonist should not cross. There is also a shift in the colour palette with the brown of the church acting as a mid-point that will lead on to the red of the forest.


The Forest The forest acts as the highest point of tension in the animation, which leads to the eventual release through the discovery that the hidden folk do not exist. Here I used red to hint at the possible threat, alongside the omnipresent shadow in the background suggesting a looming presence. The choice of the forest as a locale for this aspect of the animation is due to forests historical association with folklore as a wild place home to the wolves, goblins and ghouls that our ancestors feared.


The Cave Mountains in Norse myth separated man from the terrible monsters beyond. Although by this point the folklore has been seemingly disproved the cave represents the last obstacle the protagonist must conquer by leaving all that he knows behind and entering the darkness of the cave. The threat of the cave is heightened by the looming trolls, the fact that the scene is set at night and the howling wind (actually monstorous roars distorted to sound less solid).


The Land of Summer There is some hope hinted at in the cave scene with the glow of the moon beyond the mountains, a hope that is confirmed at the end. The shift in environments is dramatic, heightening the sense of discovering a


better world beyond. As well as the much higher saturation in colour at the end there is also more variety in colour, including the first clear view of the sun. I also included a settlement in the distance to allow for the possibility of the protagonist meeting others who are free from the oppressive fears held by his original home.


The protagonist The protagonist of my animation was originally going to be based on the ‘grey wanderer’ a form taken by the wise Norse God ‘Odin’ (featured most notably as the inspiration for Gandalf in the works of J. R. Tolkien). However I eventually opted for a more ‘human’ character that the viewer would be able to project onto and as a result become more involved with. Although his clothing is in keeping with the grimness of the surroundings the inclusion of the gold clasp and green cloak do set him apart from the environment to a degree. These colours are also reflected, albeit in a more saturated manor in the final scene with the discovery of the new land. The most notable aspects of animating the main character was the creation of a walk cycle early on, and later the creation of emotion through the manipulation of the eyebrows and eyes.


The Shaman (Noaldi) The Shaman represents those who manipulate the misguided beliefs of others for their own ends, such as modern day cult leaders. Although it isn’t explicit that he knows of the non-existence of the mythical threats this is suggested in the beginning speech when it is stated that only he is allowed across the river. The appearance of the Shaman is based on the Norse ‘Noaldi’ (what he is referred to as in the opening), an equivalent of a tribal witch doctor, purported to have many magical powers including communicating with the dead, curses and the ability to divine the future. The inclusion of a stag skull-hat and patchwork clothing was based on actual photos of shaman from the northern reaches of the world, and helped add a sense of a deluded belief in the paranormal to the character. Of course when the Shaman is eventually met he turns out to be a huddled old man muttering gibberish than a supposed magical protector.


The Hidden Folk (Huldufolk) I was inspired to include the Huldufolk after reading this line of poetry by William Allingham, “Up the airy mountain / Down the rushy glen, / We daren’t go a-hunting, / For fear of little men”. A line which sums up the unnerving way in which creatures of Norse folklore often have a somewhat understated darkness to them. In this case it is the Hidden folk (Huldufolk) of Iceland, a dark northern counterpart to elves, who unlike the modern idea of elves are more elusive and prone to mischief and darker acts when crossing paths with humans. I tried to mimic this sense of something terrible yet unmentioned in the build-up to the discovery of the Huldufolk carving. First through the description given at the beginning of them having ‘dark ways and cruel hands’, this is then implemented visually with the worrying introduction of red to the colour palette in the forest amongst the oppressive shadows.


The Trolls ( Jotun) The trolls are established as the main bogeymen of my world in my animation by the opening speech. They also represent the last obstacle overcome by the protagonist at the cave. They are referred to as Jotun; the name in Norse myth for the race of giants who act as the demonic opposite to the Gods, which is reflected in their design by the inclusion of western devil tropes such as the horns. The Jotun’s situation by the mountains is a reference to the ancient Norse belief that mountains acted as barriers between the human world and that of the giants. Throughout the mountain scene the Jotun statues help add to the oppressive atmosphere of the location with their looming, demonic appearance. They are also woven into the sound design of the location; the wind is layered with monstorous roars that I edited to be more subtle and echo, this gives the sense of their being a malevolent presence without confusing the viewer as to the existence of the trolls with to strong of an audio link.


Skygger - production book  

an online production book for my 2nd year animation project.

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