Hello, I've finished building and filming (pretty much) the latest Zoetrope! Yay!
It's not quite ready to be shown off in all it's glory yet as I'm collaborating with artist Sam Spreckley (he's working on some sound design for it) on a little abstract (very) short film with it. I'll go into more detail on it once the film's done, but here's a photo for now to get you excited!
Also, I've been doing a bit of blogging over on my Film Annex profile about my development of the zoetrope technique over the years, as a sort of build up to this film, with added hindsight, regrets, highs and lows - I'm hoping they might give a slightly different perspective to the generally of-the-moment ramblings I tend to post on here, so please do check them out if you're interested.
Just thought I'd put a couple of things up that I did for SPK over the last year. First up, The Adventures Of Isabel, a dance piece for kids, interspersed with animations and currently in the R&D phase (hence the lack of info in that banner image) but coming to schools in and around Dundee soonish. The gif below is part of the intro sequence, but on a loop.
And this is a poster I did for Dundee Dance Partnership's Dance Trail last year, which takes the audience on a tour of Dundee, with people dancing all over it. It was a 50's theme.
29/04/14 - I Have Been Working On Stuff, Honest
Bloody hell, it's nearly a year since I posted anything! It's been a busy year, it's just I've not really done much I've felt belongs on the site for one reason or another.
I've worked on a couple of projects for Norwich Puppet Theatre, both of which were really good fun, but I totally failed to capture any footage of the shows that would do them justice, and the animations just wouldn't make sense on their own, out of context. And the same goes for the two or three jobs I've done for dance company Smallpetitklein. I should get my act together really.
Anyway, I have been slowly but surely plugging away at my latest zoetrope effort in between jobs, so I thought I'd stick a few images and a video up here for anyone who's curious.
This is the mock up I made in After Effects, so in theory the final thing should look something like this.
Having filmed just the few layers in the images below, I'm a bit scared that I'm going to have some major issues when it comes to lighting this thing. The
parts of the acetate that I've roughened up with sand paper are possibly too opaque, so I've stopped that part of the process for now until I've got all the layers in place to see how they work together. I'm hoping that a strong enough back light in combination with some projection from above will solve any issues, but I'm not overly optimistic. This could end up being a rather time consuming lesson to learn...
Fingers crossed though, I'm sure I'll sort something out.
I have plans to collaborate with a sound designer mate on this one, so keep an eye out, should have something to see before the year is out.
29/05/13 - TED-Ed
I've just finished working on this animation for TED's educational website, and
just been published. I was given the voiceover track,
written and recorded by Ron Shaneyfelt, a high school astronomy teacher and educational
program manager for NASA, and came up with the animation in about four and a
website is designed as a resource for teachers, and if you go to the individual
of the animations you can use the video as a starting point to devise a more
discussion or lesson based on the subject.
18/03/13 - IPT2 Projection Animation
I uploaded this to vimeo a while ago and forgot to post it here.
It's the original animation that was projected onto my balsa
wood 3D Zoetrope for the IPT2 Battles music video.
You can make out the seperate circles pretty easily here - these
are the shapes that I mapped out first of all, projecting the
after effects composition onto the zoetrope as I was doing it.
All I did then was figure out what colors and patterns worked
well and then synched up the transitions with the music. I kind
like how something so shitty looking is so completely transformed
when it's projected onto it's intended surface - without that,
it's a pretty embarrassing piece of animation :)
11/02/13 - 20
Layers Of 3D Zoetrope
It's been a while since I've posted anything, but I've been busy
over the last couple of months trying to push the zoetrope stuff
forward while I had some spare
time. This is the first quick test of the new system that I just filmed, trying
to create an overall parent shape and movement before focusing
in on the individual surfaces of each layer...
So I decided a while ago that I wanted to construct some sort of base that would
allow me to accurately place multiple layers of animation in the zoetrope, and
few false starts with various laser cutting, CNC routing and aqua cutting companies (all
of which said my plans were too delicate for their machines), I finally arrived
at 3D printing as a solution.
This is the final design, in Sketchup, that was printed by 3D
Creation Lab. After a couple of re-designs (mainly
to get the cost down, as
is based on the volume of the material being printed) I decided
to go for this modular approach, which allows me to replace any
of the 33 'spokes' that plug into the central piece,
And ^ here's ^ the actual base - I'm pretty happy with it, even
though my massive hands do find it a bit tricky and fiddly
to insert all the layers. I'm just trying out various
designs for now to determine the best materials
to use and how far I can push them with regards to height and
weight etc. and I'll be playing about with transparencies and
printed animations on each of the 20 surfaces as well.
06/08/12 - Sonis Web Advert
I made this little web advert with Garry
Whitton about a year
ago for Sonis' Compact security device, but unfortunately it
didn't get used by the company (hence the unfinished sound
design). We're still quite happy with it though - Garry did
design and animation and I was in charge of
as well as the effects and rabbit animation.
- Within This Dust
I've just finished work on a piece of animation
for Dundee based dance company Smallpetitklein and
their dance piece 'Within This Dust'.
Within This Dust is a dance theatre piece which explores Richard
Drew's iconic photographs of a man falling from the World
Trade Centre during the 9/11 attacks. The animation will
be screened in between two of the dance pieces.
As you can see, I took some pretty direct inspiration from
the famous photo, but decided to focus on the patterns and
of the buildings rather than the falling figures, mainly because
to tackle such a delicate subject head on like that (especially
given the relatively short time I had to make it). I was quite
happy to concentrate on creating and experimenting with more
abstract imagery, and the
crumpled paper (an idea taken directly from the design of the
dance piece) provided a great visual metaphor that neatly allowed
me to avoid
having to tackle a
more literal interpretation.
Within This Dust will be performed at this year's Edinburgh
Festival Fringe from the 7th to the 19th of August at Dance
22) 14-16 Grassmarket, Edinburgh. More
07/07/12 - Dundee Dance Walk
The guys from Scottish Dance Theatre asked me to design this
map for their recent dance walk around Dundee, featuring lots
of dancey things from the Dundee
05/07/12 - Worselings - Teeth and Brain
My mate's band Worselings asked me to do some artwork for their
new EP, and I said 'ok then'. Hear
What On Earth!? premiered last week at the Rep Theatre
in Dundee. Here's a little edit of some of the footage I took
at the dress rehearsals...
The video below, Joan
Clevillé performing Duck's Dream during the dress rehearsals, is my
favourite part of the show I think, and probably the most successful
bit of collaboration between dance, choreography
and animation in the project.
Both Joan and Solène
performs the same part in the other cast of the show) really
bring the piece to life and I love the way they seamlessly
react to what's going on behind them - it's better than I could
hoped for thanks to them, and of course Sally Owen who choreographed
this section. Thanks guys!
Needless to say, there were one or two technical issues to
sort out during the technical rehearsals, but I guess that's
these things are for :) The biggest (and scariest the first
time I saw it) was that the projector seemed to want to horizontally
stretch all of my animations. This was probably caused by the
lense being used and the fact that the projector didn't seem
resolution I had rendered everything in. Not to worry though,
I ended up simply squashing everything in Final Cut
before rendering it out again so when it was stretched by the
this time it just looked as it should do - not an ideal solution,
but it was all I had time to do unfortunately.
Another slightly trickier problem to figure out was some quite
ugly looking areas of the projection that appeared as
spots in certain areas of some of the animations. It turned
out that these were 'hot spots' on the screen, where
the projector bounces any particularly bright parts of the
image back off the white of the screen at the viewer.
We tried to fix it by playing about with the colour and brightness
well as pretty much every other setting, out of desperation)
on the projector, but I ended up having to adjust some of the
layers in one of the original animations (the clouds in Duck's
Dream) and re-render the whole thing. Apparently this is a
though that could also have been solved by hanging some white
gauze in front of the screen to diffuse the light slightly.
and learn :)
Those were the only major problems though, the rest of
the setting up process was (for me anyway) pretty relaxed.
Emma Jones, did a great job of lighting the whole show in just
a couple of days (so many cues!) and she was really sympathetic
to the animations and made sure they all worked as well as
they possibly could with all that light bouncing about. Thanks
The show as a whole went down really well with the kids, lots
of random laughs and giggles at bits of the show that didn't
seem that funny to us usually, but that's all good :) There
are of course parts of it that I would do differently if I'd
more time to work on them, mainly to add more detail to certain
as the end of the Shadery section where you hear the sound
of the trees being chopped down - it would've been nice to
around a bit more with that transition, as well as a few others,
but it's always the case that there's stuff you'd like to change
I think. Sally and Janet did an amazing job of
pulling the whole piece together during
the couple of days they had in the theatre leading up to the
first performance. It was really interesting to see them refine
all the transitions and connections between scenes and I was
quite surprised at how much of a difference these seemingly
subtle changes made to the piece as a whole. I think they plan
refining and editing it before the show hopefully goes on tour
later in the year...
It's always a bit sad when a great project like this comes
to an end, but it's been such a pleasure to work with everyone
at the Scottish Dance Theatre - huge thanks to everyone there,
especially Sally and Janet for being such generous collaborators,
and of course all of the amazingly talented dancers who brought
the show to life with such energy.
I hope you've enjoyed reading
my ramblings about the whole thing
too. I'll shut up about it now :D
This bit of animation serves as a very slow transition
as the Seedling part of the dance leads into Shadery. As
the sycamore seed falls to the ground, a pile of pillows
stage will sprout as the dancer slowly emerges, forming
part of the forest that grows behind her. That background
will then remain for the next part of the show, which is
a more lively
The Sycamore seed is made from a couple of bits of acetate
and some paper stuck together with blu tac, and then hung
in front of a lightbox. That footage was then taken into
After Effects, edited into a loop, cleaned up frame by frame
and then animated on a path as it decends to the floor. Here's
a quick breakdown of that process...
The transition to the forest needed to be very slow to suit
the music and the pace of the dance, and it was good to play
with the negative space and how different parts of the composition
are revealed over time. I'm looking forward to seeing this
bit on stage as I reckon it could work pretty well. Hopefully...
This is the first bit of animation near the start of
the show when one of the dancers turns the TV on from their
bed. Hopefully it'll elicit a scream or two from the kiddiewinkles
This bit was fairly straightforward to put together
once I had the great voiceover to work with, and it was quite
refreshing to come from the epic Duck's Dream to something
releatively quick and painless to produce. The only technical
was the positioning of the TV - it was originally quite low
down the screen but because there would be a bed on the stage
point, we needed the TV to be further up in the composition
so that the audience at the front would still be able see it.
much of a problem... Just trying to think of stuff to say
Anyway, animation production is pretty much done and dusted
now, just waiting to get into the theatre for tech and dress
next week. I'll keep posting about any stuff I've not mentioned
yet, and I'll hopefully get some footage of the performances
If you're in Dundee, you can see the show on Wednesday the
11th April at
at 11am at the Rep.
It's also showing in Stirling on the 18th of April and in
Banchory on the 28th of April. There will be
shows later in the year around the uk and europe as well I
This is a short piece of animation used as surtitles
for the sing language section of What On Earth!?
It was a tricky one, this, and I'm still not entirely sure
it's going to work in combination with the dancers. I went
OHP style as it felt like a good fit, and a good way to keep
the images simple and direct and fluid. But it's possible
that it still might draw too much attention away from the
dancers. We might get around this by playing with the positioning
projection - perhaps if it's filling the screen behind the
dancers, almost silhouetting them maybe, you'll be able to
take in both
elements at the same time. We'll
be looking into this soon when we get in to rehearse at
I still love doing this style of animation though - the best
way to do it, I've discovered, is to basically make it look
rubbish while you're drawing the acetates, film all the basic
on the OHP, and then try and salvage it in After Effects,
try and improve the shoddy work you did earlier. You'll never
get it to look good, but it looks deliberately bad, at least
From quite early on in this project I was aware that there
was going to be a fairly hefty chunk of animation that I'd
tackle at some point. It came in the form of a dream, Duck's
Dream, set to the Beatles' track 'Because', and I struggled
with it a bit, as usual. Here it is in it's final form,
I go on
to moan about it...
I say final form, but there is a key element to the whole
thing missing at the moment, as with all the other animations
this project that I've talked about here so far - the dancer(s)!
piece, more so than the
others, doesn't really work or make much sense without the
Weinachter (each playing Duck in the two casts of WoE!?)
making the link between themselves and the animation. In
performance Duck anticipates the pylon rushing towards him,
looks down with
a big grin on his face when he first takes off, and is heartbreakingly
at the end as he realises he's stuck in the dirty, oily water
as all his mates fly away above him.
Joan performed it in front
of the projection for me the other night in the studio, and
he, Solène and
Sally have adapted the choreography from the initial version
with to make it work beautifully with the animation - I can't
wait to see the final thing in the Rep!
My initial idea for the look of Duck's Dream
was a bit more experimental than
much) trying to make it work. I really wanted to try and
push it to make it look a bit different, so I eventually
came up with
this projection mapping
200-odd little trees for Mr Duck to fly over...
It took me two or three days to get from the sketch above
to the image below, but it didn't really work as I'd hoped.
idea was to treat the trees as a 3D background that I could
animate with the projector to create the illusion that the
passing below, in combination with some hand held camera movements
between the trees and the vertical projection screen behind
them, and some After Effects compositing. There
were a few problems that cropped up though...
can't really see it in any of the images I took, but the
tripod holding the projector up just took up too much space
already cramped living room/studio, so I couldn't really get
camera angles or movements without getting in the way of
the projection. The nature of the triangle set up meant if
it to look
like the trees were scrolling from top to bottom (which I
did), the movement had to be very stop/start, unless they
two frames which would've been too fast for the nature of
the piece. This staccato movement also doesn't combine very
with the smooth movements inherent in any computer based
compositing or animation, as you can see in the horrible
looking tests below.
Of course, there are work arounds to these problems, but
it was getting to the point where I had to make a decision
to carry on with this and try to make it work (and possibly
waste more time), or just cut my losses and go with a more
I decided on the latter, obviously, and looking back I think
I made the right decision for the piece - the slow,
you're able to produce in After Effects are a much better
fit with the music and choreography than the projection idea
I've been adopting for other parts of the project would've
I'll maybe go into more detail about the final version of
the dream at some point.
It's really hard to get your head around working
on something that looks so small on your little
laptop screen that will end up being projected to four and
a half by eight
metres. How much detail do you need? Can
you get away with big blocky flat areas of colour?
If something goes really fast across the screen, it'll be,
on a big screen won't it?
It turns out that you probably don't need to
worry too much about those kinds of things. I
was worrying about
those kinds of things
quite a lot, but I think on the whole the projection
tests we did at the Rep the other day seemed to work
It's possible that I was just a bit over excited
about seeing my work on a massive screen, but I did have
a big list of
stuff to look out for, and most of it was ok.
I was mostly worried about compression. The worst
part of any project for me is the process of
rendering the final thing and
trying to get a not-ridiculously-big file size
while avoiding ridiculously-badly-compressed-and-ugly-looking-image-quality.
perfectionist brain struggles to handle even
the tiniest little imperfections that compression
up - but it was fine! You
can't even see
these things when it's projected, and even if
you can, they look deliberate to anybody else
In short, stop worrying, it'll all be ok in the
It was good to get Quench (the fairly big chunk
of animation for the Scottish Dance Theatre's
new production that I spoke about last time) out of the way.
A visual style
was beginning to come together, so I felt this
would be a good time to try and
down some of the ideas that Sally and Janet had
talked about for the rest of the show.
The storyboard below (you can click on it for
the full version) is a pretty rough outline of
the whole show, minus the bits that
don't involve animation. I won't go into the
details of the sequence as I'll talk about the individual sections
when I get round to
them - it was really just an attempt to get
a handle on the contents of each scene, how they relate to
and also to get a sense of the flow of colour
throughout the piece.
admit, I was struggling to
get my head around what was
some parts of the choreography and how some of
the transitions between scenes would work. The
process of developing the storyboard (along with
a more detailed script and list of actions for
each scene) over the course
of a week or so, in
things, really helped pinpoint the problem areas
for me so I could go on to discuss them with
Sally at a later date.
usually try to avoid doing storyboards for my personal
work (boring boring boring - I'd rather just
animate stuff), but
pretty much essential for this project, and has
proved very useful as a reference point for later
If you have a look at the whole storyboard you
might notice a fairly hefty chunk of it devoted
to a dream sequence. This
what I went on to develop next, as it was probably
the most complicated and detailed piece of animation
that needed to
be produced for
the show - I'll tell you how I wasted a couple
of precious weeks on that one next time :)