Week One – In the beginning…

Hi World.

Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in. It’s my final year and it’s honours project time. We were briefed just before the summer break on what the project would entail and were told to use the summer break to think about what we would base our project on. I spent the sunless months pondering this project and the plan was to hit the ground running come September.

Everything I did, everywhere I went, I would question “Would this make for a good project?”. Usually the answer was “Not really, unless making a sandwich would be an interesting topic”. Eventually I came to the conclusion that the honours project will represent my skill set and will act as a gateway into my future career. In this respect it should illustrate my interests and what excites me. Ultimately this would turn a difficult, pressurised undertaking into an interesting and enjoyable venture.

I listed all the things that excited me and that could individually, or combined, form the grounds for my piece of work. The list was possibly the most eclectic list I have ever penned and if it is ever lost and found by a stranger it may read like an aliens shopping list. Coincidently, aliens appeared on the motley list along with other varied subjects such as architecture, zombies, paper, photography, aeroplanes, vintage machines, clouds, robots, and silhouettes. I also thought about the medium I wanted to work with. It was a given that I would do something in animation as my enthusiasm has been narrowing towards this field over recent years. I have primarily worked with Flash until this point (there was a brief flirtation with Adobe Director some years back. Let’s not talk about that though) and, although I love the freedom it provides in terms of vector based animation, I found it sluggish and buggy when it came to animating image files. I love working in Flash but I feel like I want to explore different styles of animation and build up my skill set.

After little deliberation I decided that stop motion animation would be my weapon of choice. I have always been in awe of stop motion, since I was a wee lad watching The Plonksters and Freddy Fox on Irish children’s TV. I never questioned it, these characters were real, all animals could speak and crows to this day terrify me. Years on Wallace & Gromit and A Nightmare Before Christmas still sparked the child inside me (doctors tried to remove him but failed). These were all done in claymation and are an excellent example of the art. Other stop motion films that have inspired me growing up were King Kong (the 1933 version), The Wind In The Willows, that amazing skeleton scene in the Army Of Darkness and the big ant in Honey, I Shrunk The Kids.

So I had my medium and a range of topics. Over the summer months I acquired a 1960’s Uher reel-to-reel tape recorder and started restoring it. I was stunned by the mechanics of the machine when I opened it up. The innards of the contraption were so visual and in itself an animation. As I was confronted with a feast of spinning drive wheels, springing springs, moving levers and coloured wired, I knew this would make a great subject for my animation. But having a subject to photograph would be only part of my overall project. The next stage will be how to animate it and bring it to life to create a captivating animation. It’s one thing to have a beautiful looking animation but it’s nothing without a story. An animation needs to progress along a timeline if it is to keep the viewers attention, and a plot, or narrative, can provide this. I have not fully worked out the details of the shoot and it may be some time before I decide on the correct approach but at this point in time I hope to include a multitude of lighting and stop motion techniques that I will learn in the coming months.

Which brings me to the next section. We were informed that we are to set our own deliverables deadline for the Christmas period, in the sense that we state now what we will have done by then. I will propose that in this first semester I will strip down the art of stop motion animation into its component parts and do individual studies on each one. For example, I will look at lighting separately, as I will with the photography, scene construction, audio syncing etc.  This I believe will benefit my overall learning experience and be of great advantage when I tackle the main part of the project in the second semester, which will be to create a short film using the tape machine and the various stop motion elements.

I will have my first supervisor meeting next week and these ideas may be subject to change based on my supervisors feedback. I will do my utmost to keep a record of the entire project on this blog including my supervisor meeting feedback so it will be easy to track the evolution of the ideas and overall progress.

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