For the third year running I’ve taught animation workshops at a creative arts holiday (ages 12-18) over the summer. The last two years I’ve focused on morphing workshops, but I decided to try something a little different this time. I introduced the idea of emotions in characters and how to translate that clearly to an audience. To to this, everyone animated a character changing from one emotion to another.

The children grasped the concept and ran with it, creating funny and inventive pieces.

Monday Expression Workshop
Tuesday Expression Workshop

I also ran a specialism, which gave participants free rein to do whatever they liked. After going into a bit more detail about weight, timing, and movement (I even introduce charting!) the children storyboard an idea. Over about five hours they then draw their entire animation. With my help it’s photographed and edited, ready to play to the rest of the group that evening.

Joe’s specialism, Marshmallow
Roan’s specialism, Cake and Petrol

You can see more videos from workshops I’ve run on my Workshops page.

Move Summit is an industry-focused animation conference in Edinburgh now in its third year. In 2017 and 2018 I was a volunteer, but this time I was able to attend. This year it was a three day event jam-packed with speakers from Pixar, Axis, Aardman Animations, Blue Zoo, and many many more. The first day, Wednesday, was geared to students and those new to the industry, though they could also attend the other days.

Noah Klocek, Art Director at Pixar, spoke on Thursday about ‘The Importance of Authenticity in Animation’. Noah spoke in depth about considering the story when designing, but much of what he said could be applied to other areas of filmmaking. I found this talk particularly inspiring.

That afternoon Noah ran a workshop which recapped and further explored the idea of authenticity. Especially emphasised was research – he said it’s better to have great research and a bad drawing than a beautiful drawing without research. It was thought-provoking, and has challenged me to think about and change how I go about my projects.

My sketch from Noah Klocek’s workshop, researching Akitas
Thumbnail sketches for a Greyfriars Bobby/Hachiko-inspired story

Mike Sharpe, of Found Studio, spoke about how he split work into three categories: Base work, Investment, and Unique. The first is the general day-to-day work which pays the bills, the second work that’s more exciting but doesn’t necessarily have the budget, and the third the space to play and try out new things as part of personal projects. Other speakers, including Jon Yeo and Noah Klocek, spoke about this work/play balance. It’s something else I need to rethink, and challenge myself to do.

On Friday I attended the character design talk and workshop led by Kenneth Anderson. It was great to learn about his journey into character design, and pick up several of his tips. In the workshop we worked through a character design for an evil and eccentric hunter child zombie. Beginning with really simple shapes, everyone developed their own version of the monster. I enjoyed watching his process, and seeing how much was very loose and undefined. I think with character design I tend to rush ahead, and get stuck, when I need to spend more time at the basic stages to set a good foundation.

Exploring basic shapes
Refining …
… and refining further – hopefully to be finished one day

The other part of Move Summit is the networking! There are plenty of opportunities throughout the days to catch up with or get to know other artists and professionals, but there are also evening socials. At Drink and Draw, I took the time to sketch some of the others there as well as have fun doodling.

I had an incredible time, and came away full of inspiration! It’s a fantastic event for those studying or working in animation. Be sure to put it in your diaries for next year!

These next characters come from Robin McKinley’s The Blue Sword, a fantasy novel I adore. As it’s set in the desert land of Damar I took inspiration from The Prince of Egypt for design. Harry (full name Angharad) is the heroine, and I show her here near the beginning of the story when she has been kidnapped by the hill folk.

Though I took time to colour her I really like the pencil lines, so I’ve uploaded them on their own too.

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Fraser was enjoying a walk on the beach with his dog when he came across something extraordinary …

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I led more high school-age animation workshops this year, expanding on the morphing workshop from last year. This time everyone who took part was in complete control of their own piece of animation between their character and the next person’s. Whether the character melts, explodes, shatters, or morphs, this was planned out in thumbnails before it was animated. I also asked those taking part to begin with simple shapes – this encouraged them to animate the movement before animating the details.

The results are fantastic!

 

Recently I animated a couple of elements for the new Skoog advert, which you can watch below.

I animated the girl’s moustache, plus several ‘flourishes’ throughout the video. I’ve added a couple of examples as gifs below.

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I’ve realised that the way I use Photoshop to storyboard isn’t that well known. This way of working uses Frame Animation within the Timeline panel. It takes a short while to organise new shortcuts and change a few settings, but once that’s done it’s easy to add new frames and scroll through the storyboard. Most importantly, it’s simple to export.

I have used this technique in CS5 and CC. This tutorial uses Photoshop CC 2018 on a Mac.

The size of the canvas doesn’t matter. I generally use a 1920×1080 pixel canvas if I’m boarding in 16:9; the inbuilt Film & Video presets can be helpful. Like with any Photoshop file, a large canvas area plus lots of layers can become unwieldy.

Setting up the document

Open the Timeline panel by going to Window > Timeline.

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Click ‘Create Frame Animation’.

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In the bottom left-hand corner of the Timeline panel there will be a single frame. Click the little arrow in its bottom right-hand corner.

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Change the amount to 1.0, or one second. This is important because in order to export the frame rate is set at 1fps.

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Click the ‘Duplicate Frames’ button to add two more frames.

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Click the button in the top right corner of the Timeline panel.

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If ‘New Layers Visible in All Frames’ is checked, uncheck it.

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I like to save a copy of the document as a template.

Setting up shortcuts

By default, Photoshop does not assign any shortcuts for Frames in the Timeline panel. Click Edit > Keyboard Shortcuts.

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Next to ‘Shortcuts For:’ choose ‘Panel Menus’.

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Scroll down to ‘Timeline (Frames)’ and open the dropdown menu.

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I set shortcuts for ‘New Frame’, ‘Next Frame’ and ‘Previous Frame’. Choose whatever keystrokes suit you best. I don’t worry too much about what the shortcut is as I then assign them to buttons on my Cintiq.

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Click ‘OK’.

To assign the shortcuts to a Wacom tablet, open the Wacom Tablet Preferences. This can be accessed either through the Radial Menu or, on a Mac, System Preferences.

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Select ‘Functions’.

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Click the drop-down menu next to the button. Select Keyboard > Keystroke …

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Add the keystroke and assign it a name.

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Click ‘OK’.

It’s worth testing the buttons a few times, to make sure they’re working as expected. Usually if I have problems it’s because I’ve made a mistake in entering the keystroke.

Storyboarding

This is not a tutorial on how to storyboard, but I’ll give a few hints about how to use this setup.

First, don’t add any layers on the first frame. Always leave it blank. I like to have both the first and last frame blank.

Add a layer to draw. I like to keep my layers reasonably tidy, by sorting all the layers for one shot into one folder.

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It’s easy to reuse layers across several frames. As long as you don’t transform the layer (resize, rotate, etc.) you can move it without duplicating or redrawing. This progression was a simple case of duplicating the frame, then moving the position of the figure. If I rotate the layer with the figure on frame 4, it also rotates on the other frames. It’s the same if I decide to add to the drawing.

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As creating a new frame duplicates the current frame, you need to turn off the layers you don’t want to see in it. (This is when grouping layers can be particularly useful.) Then, add a new layer to draw.

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Exporting

Go to File > Export > Render Video …

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Change the name and save location.

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Change the dropdown menu from ‘Adobe Media Encoder’ to ‘Photoshop Image Sequence’.

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Change the Frame Rate to ‘Custom’ and enter 1 fps.

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Render Video automatically exports all frames, but it is possible to select a group of frames on the Timeline and then export the selected frames only.

Once you’ve finished adding the information you need, click ‘Render’.

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If only a few images have exported, or some have been exported two or more times, check that the frames are all set at 1 sec and that you are also exporting at 1 fps.

This is a very quick walkthrough of the process, so please let me know if you think there’s something I haven’t covered. Ask any questions below!

Recently I taught some animation workshops for groups of mainly high school aged children and youth. This is the first time I’ve taught animation in any depth, though I ran one workshop on pixelation a few years ago. My main goal was to give a basic framework for people to think about animation in a different way, and teach skills that they can use themselves.

In the two and a half hour workshop everyone drew a character or object on a piece of animation paper. This became a key frame. I gave a very brief overview of key frames, breakdowns and in betweens and explained charts so each person could add a chart to their key frame. Using the chart, everyone then created breakdowns and in betweens to morph between their key frame and the next. For anyone who is unfamiliar with 2D animation, this blog post may help if you want to learn a bit more.

I ran two of these workshops, and you can see the results of both in the video above.

At the end of the workshop, I gave everyone paper and clips to make flip books. I left the direction of these completely open, and the results were varied and brilliant.

The final session I ran was a day and a half long specialism workshop, where I began by going much more in depth with the technical aspects of animation. I showed a few short animations as inspiration including The Illusion of Life, which is a brilliant little video summarising the 12 principles of animation in a clear way. As individuals and as a group they worked through a couple of exercises exploring timing and weight. I was impressed with the way people picked up on some of the principles from the video, thinking about squash and stretch and anticipation in particular.

After drawing thumbnails for their ideas, they began animating on paper. I encouraged everyone to key out their animation, using their thumbnails as poses. The group really thought about how many drawings they wanted between each key, and after the exercises they’d learnt a lot more about breakdowns and in betweens, especially the fact that they don’t have to be exactly halfway between one drawing and another.

Given that there was only one lightbox I pushed everyone to learn to flip the pages, and seeing people pick it up in only a couple of hours was incredible. Flipping the entire scene was also fantastic. I think there’s something really tactile and fun about animating on paper, and I’m glad I could share that.

The films that were created are far beyond anything I anticipated. Real thought went into the making of them, and everyone made an effort to put into practice principles they’d only just learnt. The end results are beautiful and funny. I’m thrilled to have been a part of it.

There’s been idea in my head that I’ve wanted to storyboard for a while. I’ve begun drawing thumbnails, but before going any further today I decided to get down some rough character designs. A dog features in this story, specifically a Border Collie, so I did some very loose drawings inspired by my own dog Elsa. She has the most wonderful ears.ElsaCollie_02

I now have a new portfolio and two new showreels online! My portfolio has a range of gesture and life drawings, concept sketches, and animal drawings as well as a range of final art from some of my projects. The showreels page has both a character animation and a motion graphics reel, both which feature work I haven’t yet posted on the site. I’ve also added a storyboards page where I’ve collected together some of my story work.

The image above is from a map I created for the beginning of the feature film The Gaelic King. I hope you enjoy taking a look at what I’ve been up to!

If you haven’t seen my previous storyboards from the Animation Base Camp, you may want to start here or here.

The story revolves around odd-couple animals at a therapist’s office. The scene below, featuring a bee, was worked on by several different people throughout the Base Camp.

I’d recommend looking at Erin’s version – she’s the one who came up with the bee/flower gag in the first place, and developed the bee’s wonderfully pathetic character.

The background of the alleyway was a sketch of Hajnalka Szanto’s beautiful design.

If you haven’t seen my previous storyboards from the Animation Base Camp, you may want to start here.

The story revolves around odd-couple animals at a therapist’s office. Throughout the camp I worked on several different versions of a scene involving a shark.

Here’s my first, rough, pass:

A cleaned up version with a different take:

The final version, from the animatic:

In the final version the shark became female, the length of the scene was condensed considerably, and a lot of the humour came from the audio rather than the visuals. (Imagine the shark’s line read in a strong Glaswegian accent.) Given the overall pacing of the story it was the right way to go, but I missed the fun I had drawing the therapist’s reactions.

During the Animation Base Camp we had opportunities to come up with additional gags which were, in some cases, added to the story. Here are some of my shark ones:

See another board from the Base Camp here!

I had the privilege of taking part in the first-ever Animation Base Camp, a trainee programme in Glasgow with mentors from Sony Pictures Animation, during July to September this year. It focused on creating visual development art and an animatic for an original idea directed by David Feiss. I worked as a storyboard artist, creating ideas and gags for the project.

You can find out a little more about who was involved at the link above, but I’d like to particularly thank Fraser, Elaine and Will, as well as Jenn, and of course all my fellow students.

The story revolves around odd-couple animals at a therapist’s office. This is one of my scenes from the final animatic, featuring a talkative bear.

We also had the opportunity to develop lots of gag ideas of how some of the couples might have met. This was one of my ideas:

See more storyboards from the Base Camp here and here.

For the last week I’ve been in Glasgow as part of the Animation Base Camp. I’m here as a Story Artist. This week has been inspiring, challenging, and full of fun. Unfortunately I can’t really show what I’ve been working on yet, so here are a couple of designs I did for a project back in April!

Meerkat_03_AA

I designed, storyboarded and animated this video for trypraying. The trypraying booklet is a seven-day prayer guide which encourages people to try praying for a week and see what happens.

Some of my concept art for the project is below.

CharacterDesign

I began with some rough character sketches from the script. From the outset I wanted designs that were simple but attractive.

BGDesign copy

BGDesign

I also began to explore the background environments and colour design. For the background, I wanted to have a very flat, “false” perspective. I wanted to tie the colours to the trypraying booklet.

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I created colour keys using the storyboard, finding a range that would work through each scene.

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Once the storyboard and animatic were complete, and the colours approved, I made last-minute changes – like the policewoman’s new hat – and then began building the characters and backgrounds in Illustrator and Flash.

Characters

Characters2

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I drew some sketches of how the characters would need to be broken up for animation.The minister only needed to wave his hand, whereas the main character had to be able to turn, walk and move his arms. The main character’s trousers were simplified as a result.

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Here are some of the final scenes in the video. I’m really pleased with how the colour and designs came out. This was a fun project to make!

And here’s a little extra: I added a caricature of myself sitting on the bus!

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My short film “Dreid” is screening at British Shorts in Berlin on the 25th of January!

For those of you who haven’t yet seen it (or want to see it again!), you can view the short here.

Granny

Here’s a little sneaky peek at a project I’m working on right now! I’m having fun with the simple palette and design. I’m building all the characters, props and backgrounds in Illustrator and am animating them in Flash.

This is a walk cycle WIP from a short scene I’m animating. It’s the first time I’ve animated with the Mery rig (available from meryproject.com) and it’s been a lot of fun to use.

Create

I’ve been going along to several events at the Edinburgh International Film Festival this week. As part of the EIFF’s Youth Hub events I took part in a filmmaking competition. Each entry had to be made in under a week, and include the dialogue “young and the wild” and the prop of a mobile phone. “Create” was my entry, drawn in about a day and a half. It won second place.

The narration was kindly provided by Philip Todd. You can see more of his work here: philip-todd.com

I’ve also added “Create” to my Shorts page.

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