Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Life Drawing - 28/01/15

Film Review - Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960)

Fig 1. Psycho Poster. 

 Psycho, a film that follows a woman attempting to flee with money that she had stolen, until her untimely death at the hands of a psychotic killer. The film then follows her friends and a private detective as they try to pinpoint her whereabouts. They track her to the motel that she was murdered in and one by one they are taken down by the mysterious killer. Until, finally the killer is caught and revealed to be none other than the motel owner himself. This comes as quite a surprise as the viewer is led to believe that the owners deranged mother is the killer, right up to the reveal at the end that shows her to have been long dead.

Roger Ebert states in his review ''The setup of the Marion Crane story, and the relationship between Marion and Norman (Anthony Perkins). Both of these elements work because Hitchcock devotes his full attention and skill to treating them as if they will be developed for the entire picture.'' (Ebert, 1998). The audience is in this sense, tricked. Tricked because the murder scene is early in the film and with no real build-up, but also tricked because as a result, the story suddenly switches protagonists after much of the introduction was devoted to a steady back-story of the victim. This bizarre shock was very much intentional in making the audience uneasy and unsure of where the story was heading. The film relays shock after shock like this, constantly skewing and twisting the natural plot-line until it is unclear what to expect next and where to expect it from. This is only heightened by the films natural flow of suspense, when something dramatic isn't happening, very little else is other than characters moving slowly and talking.

Mark Monahan mentions in his review of the film ''Hitchcock's mischievous genius for audience manipulation is everywhere: in the noirish angularity of the cinematography, in his use of Bernard Herrmann's stabbing string score, in the ornithological imagery that creates a bizarre sense of preying and being preyed upon.'' (Monahan, 2014). Quite often in the film there are bizarre camera angles which put the audience in the mindset of preying and being preyed upon. For instance, when Marion and Norman are talking in the back room of the motel, the camera points upwards towards the stuffed birds of prey hanging threateningly above them (See Fig 2.), almost as if they could strike at a moments notice. The intense and uncomfortable angles at which scenes are shown certainly boost the films haunting psychological story.

Fig 2. Sandwich Scene Still

In Bill Weber's review of the film, he states ''The imminent, brutal turn of the plot in Cabin One's bathroom is the film's most celebrated fillip, but this quiet, subtly ominous dialogue between Leigh and Perkins enriches the film's texture and raises its emotional stakes.'' (Weber, 2010). It would be hard to talk about this film thoroughly without mentioning one of its most celebrated and memorable scenes. The shower scene in which Marion is killed off surprisingly early and abruptly. Despite no images of the knife piercing flesh, the scene is chilling and shockingly violent. Even more chilling is the following scene, which sees Norman rushing down to the room having heard the screams. He is confronted with the grizzly scene and begins to slowly and methodically clean and empty it of evidence, including that of Marion's lifeless body, which he wraps up in the shower curtain and puts in the boot of her car. He drives the car into the nearby bog, which eventually consumes the car, leaving no evidence of the crime. 

One of the many strengths of this film is the way in which each scene stretches. The audience is constantly waiting for something, some inevitable shock or conclusion that will wrap up the long winded scene for them. With the exception of an undue and arguably unnecessary psychoanalysis of Normans mind by a psychiatrist at the film's conclusion, Psycho simply cannot be faulted.

Illustration List

Hitchcock, A (1960) Figure 1. Psycho Poster. (Accessed on 26/01/15)

Hitchcock, A (1960) Figure 2. Sandwich Scene Still. (Accessed on 28/01/15)


 Ebert, R (1998) (Accessed on 26/01/15)

Monahan, M (2014) (Accessed on 27/01/15)

Weber, B (2010) (Accessed on 28/01/15)

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Maya Tutorial - Camera Shake

Passby Shot
Drop Shot

Character Design Session 3 - Enviroment Design

In this session I got 'throne room' and 'post-apocalyptic'. Thoroughly enjoyed this session and found it really useful.

Post OGR Story Revision (Feedback Appreciated)

Original Story for OGR

Two rival sculptors are pitted against each other in a timed competition out in the Canadian wilderness. There is a stand of people in the clearing here to watch the competition. One sculptor is over-confident, large and muscular, while the other is quite small and focused. At the beginning of the competition the large sculptor begins training himself up using his surroundings as rudimentary gym equipment, while the other begins drawing up plans and measurements.

Both sculptors then set to work on their sculptures, it switches between both of them during this process. The large sculptor uses large tools including a chainsaw and rips up a lot of the surrounding woodland and rocks. His begins to grow and grow until he can no longer reach the top to continue sculpting. He thinks to himself and comes up with an idea. He fashions a pogo-stick out of a log, some branches and a coiled snake and continues to sculpt haphazardly.

The smaller sculptor gathers an adequate amount of materials and begins to construct his at a slow but steady pace. After some time the large sculptor tires as he has over-worked himself and decides he is almost finished and has some time so he will rest for a minute. It focuses on him closing his eyes.

 He opens his eyes to find the time is up and that while his wasn’t quite done the other sculptor had finished his .

It ends with the smaller sculptor with a smile holding a trophy bigger than him and the larger sculptor grumbling next to him.
The main 3 points that Phil mentioned were as follows;
-The pogo-stick seems like its being used by the wrong character eg brains instead of brawn character.
-Instead of an actual competition, which needs much more introduction for the viewer, a rivalry between 2 native American chieftains that takes shape as a totem pole carving competition (most likely out of the surrounding trees). This also provides a solid base for the character and environment design.
-Not much being seen of the brainy characters totem until a final reveal at the end (more of a punch-line).
I definitely agree with all 3 of these points and I intend to tweak my story to accommodate them. I definitely feel that these things can improve my story and make it more polished. So without further ado, my revised story.
Revised Story
There are two rival tribes at either end of a forest. They constantly bicker and fight. The two chieftains settle their dispute in a clearing at the centre of the forest. One is rather skinny and the other is brawny. It is to be settled over a totem pole carving competition of two adjacent trees. (either right next to each other or at opposite ends of the clearing). They shake hands and both go back to their tribes to prepare.
The brawny chieftain trains his body by lifting logs like weights, juggling animals etc etc... while the skinny chieftain begins drawing, planning and measuring out his totem pole design.

The next day, the two chieftains meet in the clearing and start working on their totem poles,  most of the emphasis is on the brawny chieftains totem and him making large carefree thrusts as he carves his, with a camera cut as he looks over to the skinny chieftains totem and sees him working things out and making small incisions and cuts with his tools. This makes the brawny chieftain snigger and feel more confident.

There is a montage of progress as the two totems begin to take shape from a distance. Both of the chieftains have problems reaching higher points to carve, the brawny chieftain climbs his without care and continues carving without care. The skinny chieftain cannot climb as well and he comes up with another solution. He hurriedly designs and makes a pogo stick out of a small log, some sticks and an unfortunate curled up snake (design could change). After both sculptors continue the brawny chieftain has exerted himself too much and after feeling that he has done enough to win, climbs down and naps against a nearby tree. Camera focuses on him falling asleep and then him waking up later.

He is woken up by the skinny chieftain, who is the first thing he sees, the skinny chieftain then steps aside to reveal his finished totem pole, it is magnificent and brightly coloured in comparison to the brawny chieftains rather rough and plain work.

The brawny chieftain gets up and in his frustration, kicks his totem pole down (camera shake when it falls) and trudges back to his village, mumbling and grunting angrily as he does so. It then focuses on the skinny chieftain again, who wanders merrily back to his village. It shows the clearing with the two totems again and zooms out and fades.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Maya Tutorial - Contra Zoom

Maya Tutorial - Camera Coverage

Found this one a bit tricky to get the hang of, but in the end I'm fairly confident that I know how it works.

Soundscape Project Pictures

Picture 1

Soft Collisions

Picture 2

Dull Creaking

Picture 3

Empty Space

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Animation - Blob Test 1

Here is by blob animation before the final changes we added on Friday. Overall I'm quite pleased with this. It is quite hard to see in this video as its too bright so seeing it full-screen should help slightly.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Life Drawing - 21/01/15

Autodesk Sketchbook Pro - Introduction

I may have gone a little crazy with the mirror tool in Sketchbook. A doodle that got a little out of control. Nevertheless I am really enjoying this program and I can see how useful it will be for character design.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Film Review - Rope (Alfred Hitchcock, 1948)

Fig 1. Rope Poster.

As Rope is a relatively experimental film, there are quite clear strengths and weaknesses throughout. It can be easily interpreted as a lesson from Hitchcock to other filmmakers, that there should be much more experimenting in how films are made and that filmmakers should not be afraid to try something different and not succeed. A lot can be learned from experimentation, this is clearly what Hitchcock was doing when he made the film, a simple experimentation to see if a film could be made this way.

Rope is most famous for its 'continuous shot'. The film has the illusion of an undisrupted single camera shot throughout but at the time of its production the film industry was limited to filming a maximum of 10 minutes on a single reel. Hitchcock avoided noticeable cuts in the film by beginning and ending each 10 minute reel either behind an object or zoomed into the back of an actor.

Pamela Hutchinson states in her review ''Technically, the best thing here is the studio skyline-backdrop, with fibreglass clouds, a travelling sun and neon lights that blink a garish red and green as the film reaches its climax.'' (Hutchinson, 2012). As the film was built on the illusion of a single continuous shot, the illusion of real-time seeps in with it, if not slightly faster. The film achieved a simple sense of the passage of time, by using ever-changing backdrops and light conditions to trick the audience into believing the films faster transition from afternoon to evening (See Fig 2 & 3). The light changes are so subtle over the course of the film however, that it is hard to notice how fast it is happening. In that sense at least, the film succeeded.

Fig 2. Afternoon Scene.

Fig 3. Evening Green light.

In Roger Ebert's review he states ''The play depended, for its effect, on the fact that it was one continuous series of actions. Once the characters have entered the room, there can’t be any jumps in time, or the suspense will be lost. The audience must know that the body is always right there in the trunk.'' (Ebert, 1984). Like the original play, the film did not have noticeable cuts. As such the viewer would not think about anything other than what they were seeing and what would happen next. There is never any doubt that the body is still in the trunk. If there was a distinct cut, the viewer would begin to question the things that could have happened in between. Could the body have been moved? Is there anything else happening here? The continuous and steady passage of time hangs onto suspense tightly, while a cut in a scene would let out suspense as fast as air in an untied balloon. The audience never feels manipulated or deceived as long as the scene feels natural.

The New York Times film states ''The novelty of the picture is not in the drama itself, it being a plainly deliberate and rather thin exercise in suspense, but merely in the method which Mr. Hitchcock has used to stretch the intended tension for the length of the little stunt.'' (Crowther, 1948). The overall plot is very simple and can be summed up in a single sentence. This may be because it is an adaption of a play which Hitchcock wanted to stay true to, or it could be because the focus was on the camera-work and acting instead of the story. Despite its simplicity, the story and environment work perfectly in tune with single-shot filming. It is still an effective and suspenseful film, the camera-work boosts this with its interesting use of perspective and the environment of the apartment. Overall this film may not be one of Hitchcock's great cinema masterpieces, but it is a successful experiment that merely had to work within its predefined limits.

Illustration List

Hitchcock, A (1948) Figure 1. Rope Poster. (Accessed on 13/01/15)

Hitchcock, A (1948) Figure 2. Afternoon Scene. (Accessed on 20/01/15)

Hitchcock, A (1948) Figure 3. Evening Green Light. (Accessed on 20/01/15)


Hutchinson, P (2012) (Accessed on 19/01/15)

Ebert, R (1984) (Accessed on 19/01/15)

Crowther, B (1948) (Accessed on 19/01/15)

Further Story Ideas - A work in progress

After talking to Phil about my story ideas yesterday, we came up with some really interesting ideas that weren't as restricted and forced as some of my previous ones. Building on my previous idea of two sculptors pitted against each other for a commission, there could be two cartoonish and exaggerated sculptors/lumberjacks who are battling it out for a trophy or title.

Reminder of what I'm working with;

The setting would be a Canadian forest (or similar). There would be a makeshift gym for training for the sculpting (likely the first or early scene). There would be time-lapses of them building and adding to sculptures that become bigger and bigger. Using more and more of the landscape around them (rock, wood, ice). Eventually as they become higher and harder to reach, they would both use wacky ways of getting to the top to sculpt it, from a pogo-stick to a catapult to a helicopter one calls in (escalates).

Possible end games would be a zoom out reveal to show a devastated and unstable landscape (cliff, pit...) which would collapse the monumental sculptures or after building for so long they would turn on each others sculptures and attempt to destroy them, leaving them both with nothing at the end, with no prize. Another possibility we talked about was the use of 'the tortoise and the hare' story, there would be one sculptor going at a steady precise pace and another working much quicker and taking a break thinking he will easily win (going to sleep looking at the other sculptors clearly unfinished sculpture, then waking up to find a masterpiece there and his own not as good or not quite finished and short of time).

Really interested in these ideas overall and I feel that there is a lot to work with. Let me know what you think!

Notes and possible alterations:

-exaggerated lumberjack characters (red flannel shirts and jeans, chainsaws etc...)

-for tortoise and hare idea there would be a massive, well-built lumberjack (hare) and a smaller or thinner but clearly smarter sculptor (tortoise)

-very 'functional gym'. using things around them as weights (rocks etc...) and maybe animals could be involved here?

-example of using the environment around them, the pogo-stick could be a log and a coiled up snake

-if working with 2 similar sculptors battling it out, for the comedy and cartoon aspect one sculptor could be a woman who looks exactly like the male character but with make-up and long hair (no other discernible features)

Monday, 19 January 2015

Maya Tutorial - Custom Camera Rig

Found this one a little harder to follow as it seemed to be quite complicated. Overall though it was quite interesting and I'm happy that I've completed it.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Life Drawing - 14/01/15

Character Design Sessions 1 and 2

Session 1

The character I brought it for the session was Edward Elric from the manga/anime series Fullmetal Alchemist. I tried to make him look more realistic and I'm fairly pleased with the result. The character I was given in the second half of the session was Gru from Dispicable Me. I had to make him look less menacing and more cute by reducing the triangles in the image and using squares and circles more. I am especially happy with the drawing I did and I think I succeeded in making him look cuter.

Session 2

For the first part of this session I was given starship trooper as my base for some experimental character design. My final result was a kind of super soldier fitted out in a similar way to those in the film Elysium and the game Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. The twist is that the exoskeleton and helmet control the victim instead of magnify his or her strength. These mindless drones would usually be a common enemy and would attack in vast numbers.

Like For Like Storyboard - Fifth Element

The specific scene I used from Fifth Element is when Leeloo is cornered by police on a ledge after escaping from the lab. I'm quite pleased with the overall outcome here but I struggled with the faces somewhat.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Film Review - La Jetée (Chris Marker, 1962)

Fig 1. La Jetee Cover.

La Jetee is a particularly unique film as it is played almost entirely as a sequence of images. This is not the only intriguing thing about it though, as it is a surprisingly short film. This however does not seem to be a downside, while its total running time sits comfortably under the 30 minute mark, the story does not seem rushed. The plot, for the most part is quite simple, despite its main premise being about time travel through thought and imagination. It would seem that half an hour is just enough time to tell this story comfortably.

Jean-Louis Schefer states in his review of the film ''The realization of the confession comes with the death of the hero himself as he relives a moment of his past, as he meets once again the girl whose image has haunted him.'' One of the most impressive plot developments in the film is at its conclusion, when the protagonist, after finally making it to the past is killed and in his final moments he realises that the event he saw as a child was his own tragic death (See Fig 2). This simple use of time-travel neatly glues the entire story together into a constant cycle. Things like this in the plot clearly show that the story was as meticulously planned and perfected as the sequence of images that dominate the film.

Fig 2. Pier Death.

Another one of the interesting points in this film is the significance of the woman whom the protagonist is obsessed with. The single use of moving image in this film is of this woman in bed moving her eyes. The film lingers in this scene of the woman in bed for a significant amount of time, this sudden change of pace could confuse the viewer somewhat and it could be said to be an unimportant and irrelevant scene. However this scene certainly has its place as it could be argued that it strengthens the viewers understanding of the relationship between the protagonist and the woman.

Overall, the film is surprisingly full and well paced considering its short running time. The story doesn't feel rushed and the characters are intriguing and mysterious throughout.

Illustration List

Marker, C (1962) Figure 1. La Jetee Cover. (Accessed on 12/01/15)

Merker, C (1962) Figure 2. Pier Death. (Accessed on 14/01/15)


Schefer, J (1990) (Accessed on 14/01/15)

Saturday, 10 January 2015

From Script to Screen - Starting ideas

The 3 key structures I pulled from the mystical blue box were:


After thinking about these for the week the key ideas that spring to mind are;

The sculptor gets commissioned to do a piece for either the reception of the gym or the courtyard (if its a particularly large gym).

There is perhaps some competition between this sculptor and another better equipped and more traditional sculptor (perhaps he sees a flyer in the street). The problem could be a lack of confidence and self-esteem in comparison with the other sculptor. He uses inventive ways in his sculpture and creates his own distinct style. After doing his best there is an unveiling and the traditional sculptor has created a flawless representation of a muscular man holding weights (could be different), while our sculptor has something new, inventive and never seen before. (The traditional sculptor would be confident at the unveiling and ours would not be)At the gym there is a committee (or judges) and they are blown away by the inventive new sculptor and deem it the winner. He is ecstatic and the other sculptor scowls.

Some other smaller ideas that I have had include;

The pogo-stick relating to his son who died.

The pogo-stick being his tool for sculpting.

Overall I have had most difficulty with the pogo-stick and how to weave it into the story ideas I have had. I think it will definitely be the hardest to work with and as such I think my next course of action is to generate ideas with the pogo-stick as the focal-point, as Phil suggested.