04/02/22 - ZOE

Wow, it's been a while, eh? Sorry about that! The reason I've not updated for so long is really because I've just been working on the same thing all this time and didn't want this place to just become a wall of ZOE updates.

I'm as surprised as anyone to still be working on the game after all this itme, but I'm still enjoying it, and it's looking like it'll actually come out on PC and consoles in roughly a year, which is exciting!

If you're interested in keeping up to date with my progress on it, Twitter is probably the best place for that as I post GIFs on there fairly regularly. Or you can check my more detailed blog style thread on the Game Maker forums.
Here's a GIF, cheers!

10/04/19 - ZOE - Boss Fight!

I've spent the last couple of months working on the first boss fight for ZOE, and re-working the formation system, along with a bunch of other smaller tweaks.

Having finally figured out and nailed down the concept and context for the game (see previous post below), it was clear that the boss would have to be the animator's paintbrush that's antagonising the player throughout the level, but how would the battle actually play out?

I decided pretty quickly that I'd need to somehow pause the side scrolling and create some sort of arena in order to contain the fight, mainly because it seemed like it'd be a massive headache to deal with all of the scrolling and warping issues that would come up otherwise, but I also think it was the right call as it mixes up the gameplay style a bit, allowing the player to move more freely around the screen. To contextualise it, I came up with the 'Frame Trap'!

The camera pulls out to reveal the black frame boundaries which also act as walls to keep the player trapped. I was really happy with this as it solved the game design problem and added to and reinforced the context of the game world. 

From here it was relatively easy - I came up with a few ideas for the kind of attacks the brush could do and set about implementing them with a spawning system that randomises the order they appear in. There's also a countdown to when the frame trap happens, so the player is able to get into a position where there are some health or energy resources to use during the fight. It's a fairly easy boss to defeat, but there's room to adapt the difficulty in the future, and I'm pretty happy with how it's turned out.

Some of the smaller tweaks I've made recently include the mini map at the bottom of the screen which indicates where health dots are and whether any of the dots have been popped or not (I plan to make this scroll with the player, so that the green indicator (the player) stays in the central position and the others move around that, as I think it'll make it much easier to read), a camera zoom out for when the brush appears throughout the level (but without stopping the side scrolling), to further emphasise to the player when it does appear (especially if it's off screen), and again, to push the context even more, a slightly different order of events in the title screen, and a small how to play guide. I'm sure there's other stuff I've forgotten.

22/01/19 - ZOE - Menus!

I've just uploaded a low-key update to the game, so I thought I'd talk about what I've been up to for the past few months.

Most of my time on the project, until fairly recently, has been focused on simply getting things to work and making things look decent. I was working towards getting enough enemies designed so I could start putting together a level with a sequence of enemy waves and formations. Once I finally got there, and after some feedback from the first demo I posted here, it became apparent that the player really had no motivation or reason to shoot any of the enemies other than to just, you know, shoot all the enemies. I'm a big Shmup fan, and as such rarely enjoy or pay attention to the story in a Shmup, especially one that interrupts the shooting, but this forced me to acknowledge that of course all Shmups have a story or framing narrative of some sort. So it was time to try and figure out mine.

The first breakthrough I had, after a long struggle with ideas, came when I started working with my friend Tom Pegg on the music and sound design. The concept for the game had always been that we were watching a drawn on film animation, so when the music was put in, I thought it'd be fun to play about with a slow down effect and a camera pull out to reveal the edges of the film when the game was paused...

This test reminded me of something that had always kind of been at the back of my mind, which was to have the 'animator' as the main antagonist, a hand drawing in all the annoying enemies and becoming the boss at the end of the first level. I had to think about how I wanted to implement this tho, as I didn't really like the idea of just having a cut scene play out at the start of each level or something - I wanted to try to somehow convey it all through the title screen and the context of the menus leading up to the first level. So for the last couple of months I've been focusing mainly on menu design and implementation, which I really wasn't expecting to happen!

If I wanted this 'animator' to be the baddie, it made sense that we should see the player character relaxing at first before being interrupted or bothered by them, so I got to work on a title screen, and then started playing around with camera zoom levels and positions for the various menu and option screens.

I was happy that I was finally getting to grips with my camera system at least! The next task was to get the paint brush directly antagonising the character somehow - I'm not totally settled on the order of events yet, and I think it all needs to be a bit snappier, but this is as far as I am at the moment.

I still want to have some sort of transition to the first level where the brush actually paints in a couple of enemies before the level starts, and I might swap the sequencing of the brush swiping across the screen with the ink drip, so it feels a bit more threatening and leads more naturally into the painting. I really like the title music when it slows down, it feels like a real interruption to the character's nice sleepy vibe - I plan to add more sound effects for the brush moving about as well, to help sell the idea more.

This focus on the menus has really helped to start bringing the game together I think, and it's lead to some changes that were needed in the actual gameplay as well. Because the brush vandalises our character's world, it gives the player some motivation to restore it back to it's original peace and tranquility, which has helped me finally figure out one of the main mechanics in the game as well, the popping buttons. The instruction to the player at the very start is now "CLEAN THE REEL!" (I've not settled on that language, but you get the idea), and when you ground pound onto the first button, you see the background transform to it's original colour. The percentage of the background you manage to clean up is also going to be tied in to a score multiplier at the end of each level, so there's a hopefully interesting balance to strike between maximising your score and managing your finite energy and health resources (which also come from the buttons).

In turn, this inky style in the background has lead to some of the enemies leaving behind an ink splat as they die, which can also be cleaned up by the button pops, and generally makes the level feel a lot more dynamic and interesting, I think. My latest bit of work has been to change the way the path enemies look and to introduce the animator's brush into the game proper for the first time, which has also really helped.

Overall, I'm pretty happy with how things are progressing. I'm hoping to have a full on new demo done around about the end of February, hopefully including a boss fight, so please keep an eye out for that, and please let me know what you think of all this - all feedback is welcome.

28/09/18 - ZOE - Something Playable!

I finally have something that is playble of my first game! If you're interested, please give it a go and let me know what you think, whilst bearing in mind that this is very much a work in progress and is nowhere near finished and did I mention it's my first game? and there's no sound yet :D

If you're on Windows, here's a download link. If not, please enjoy some screenshots and my
double speed playthrough below.

24/04/18 - ZOE - Starting To Take Shape

A fair bit has changed since the last update, both visually and behind the scenes.

The most obvious thing is the change in colour for the background I guess, which I did so that I could have more options for how the enemies look. Because the player is towards the green / blue end, it'd be a bit confusing if the enemies were similar colours, so freeing up the background from red allows me to play about with the reds for the enemies instead.

I also managed to design a simple multiplier mechanic and to tie it in with the UI at the bottom of the screen, along with the health and energy bars. I wanted it to be pretty bold so that the player can be aware of it without having to look away from the action too much. The multiplier bar increases with every enemy kill, pauses for a few seconds and then reduces until it's at zero or you make another kill - when it fills up, the multiplier goes up by one and applies it to any subsequent scoring. You can also briefly pause the bar when it's going down by popping one of the buttons in order to keep the chain going when there are no enemies aorund.

The visual design of the multiplier bar is based on another of Norman McLaren's films called Sychromy, where he painted on the soundtrack of the film to make the sound - totally worth a watch, it gets pretty crazy!

The buttons also now spawn particles when they're popped which get sucked in by the player, refilling the energy or health bars depending on their colour. I also simplified their design a bit and abandoned the Zoetrope effect when the player dashes, as it wasn't really that visible when you're concentrating on the game, and it was dictating the length and speed of the dash as well, making it feel too out of control. I'm still going to try to implement the Zoetrope frames appearing as the buttons are popped, as in previous versions, but I'm maybe a bit more open to just abandoning that altogether if it doesn't feel right or is just too forced.

Lastly (I think), I designed an enemy wave / formation system and a couple of different enemy types that only spawn once there are a certain amount left in the level. I managed to figure this bit out all on my own, somehow! The enemies still need a lot of work so that there's enough variety visually and mechanically, but I've got the systems set up so I can eventually design the level properly.

Oh, and a menu and pausing system too!
And a badly done shader for pickups and damage feedback. Next time I hope to have a playable demo of some sort ready!

07/02/18 - Game Character Movement

I've been focusing on the look and feel of the game (I should really think of a name for it) for the last couple of months, and it feels like something is starting to come together now. It feels pretty nice and responsive to control, and even with the simple placeholder enemies it can be quite fun to play.

The music in the video below is ripped straight from the film "Boogie Doodle" by Norman McLaren and Albert Ammons, and is just dropped in there to try and get a feel for the vibe of the game at the moment - it'll all be replaced at some point.

My next little stint on this will be to implement some more of the game mechanics - some sort of energy bar that is depleted when you fire and dash etc, and which is replenished when you hit the buttons on the bottom - and some more interesting enemies.

07/12/17 - A Game Maker Is Me

This year my spare time has been mainly about figuring out how to make games, at least when I'm not playing them. Or thinking about them. Or watching stuff about them. I'm obsessed really, which is why it's ridiculous that it's taken me this long to come to the conclusion that I should be making one.

I dabbled with Game Maker a bit towards the end of last year, but was messing about trying to make some 'animation tool' or something - I want to make a GAME! I want to make a Shmup cos I love Shmups, and I want it to feel good to play, and I want to sell it maybe to people on Steam or PSN or Switch or anywhere that'll have it, and I want it to be as good as something like Downwell, or Resogun (it probably won't be as good as Resogun or Downwell). There, I said it.

It turns out to be bloody hard to do that tho, so here I shall document my struggles!

At the start of the year I bought myself a copy of the latest version of Game Maker Studio and got to work on some tutorials by the likes of Shaun Spalding and Gloomy Toad on Youtube. These guys, and I'm sure others, are great at taking you through the code and explaining what's what. It's extremely daunting at first for someone with zero experience with coding, but concepts and thought processes are slowly sinking in now, and I can start to go off the beaten track a bit and implement ideas of my own, albeit sloppily and inefficiently.

Having followed the Gloomy Toad platformer tutorial until there were no more videos left (footage of the results above) I felt able to adapt that code into my first idea for a Shmup - a Defender style game with a Zoetrope (my other obsession) twist! The idea being that the player slowly builds up the Zoetrope style animation by activating the frames, while fending off enemies, and then takes on a Boss fight at the end of the level as they accelerate to the right speed for the Zoetrope to come into effetc, providing a lovely animated backdrop for all the violence.

I got the general concept of it working relatively easily (probably about three weeks of struggle that a programmer could've done in a day) - you can get the general idea in the video above, probably best to full screen it as the Zoetroipe effect isn't too clear when small. The feel and theme and context of it all was a complete mess tho, so I took a break from the coding side of things for a bit to try and nail down the visuals and come up with some sort of background and context for the game mechanics.

Click images for bigger images

Hux made a comback for a bit, and I cooked up some silly idea in my head that he was trying to stop an invasion of his planet or something by activating a defense system that happened to work very much like a Zoetrope. Pretty stupid, but it helped me push the visuals forward a bit (and away from the confines of pixel art, which was limiting my thinking a bit I think), and I also took a bit of inspiration from a lovely feeling, looking and sounding game called Gonner, by trying to simplify and clean up the visuals. Which in turn led me to just stick in some frames of an actual Zoetrope I'd made, to see how it might look.

It was getting better, but still felt wrong and a bit forced to me. I feel like someting has clicked into place now tho, with the latest complete overhaul of the visuals. The aforementioned Zoetrope frame I used was from this Zoetrope I made a few yaears ago now, which was essentially utilising an enlarged drawn on film technique...

Like what Norman McLaren done! This is as far as I've got so far, but it feels like I've landed on a good style - it's unique as far as games go (to my knowledge), it's nice and abstract so I don't really need to worry about bothersome story and stuff, and it fits the Zoetrope conept perfectly!

While I've been working on this, I've hired a programmer via the Game Maker forums to help me out with some character movement coding, as realistically I'm never going to be able to do this all myself. Once he's done with that, I'll start implementing this new style and see where it goes from there...


06/01/17 - Robin Game Test

Moar Robins!

This time in video game form. I thought I'd have a go at doing some coding in Game Maker, having never done any sort of coding before. This capture footage is all in engine, including the editing and sound, but running at 30 fps instead of 60 because my screen cap software can't do 60fps.

It's been a pretty steep learning curve so far, and all I've really done is figure out how to change the animation sequences based on what buttons are being pressed, but I'm pretty happy with that. I might try to think up some actual game mechanics to implement with this, but I'm also tempted to just continue refining the animations and to use the game engine as a puppetry tool for animating a film of some sort. Either way, I could do with a decent Mac version of Game Maker as the only one available at the minute is a pretty old, buggy version that doesn't deal with alpha channels (hence the pixel style, which I'd probably rather avoid, going for something like below instead).

02/08/16 - Robin Studies

I've just been working on some movement studies for a potential short film, trying to get used to animating something approaching a character - the style and design will be developed further at some point, I'm just using After Effects vectors at the moment for the sake of speed.

24/05/16 - Pixels

I did this the other day, it's the first part of a story I wrote ages ago involving trails of kebab meat, a boy in a cage in a forest and giant octopi from space. Subtle stuff. I may do the next picture at some point, although the framing process is a bit of a pain in the arse, so who knows when?

You can click the image to see it bigger, if you want...

25/02/16 - Integral Society 3D Zoetrope

My first paid zoetrope job! I'm not able to show any video of it yet unfortunately, but here are some stills from the collaboration with The Edge Picture Company and designer Garance Marneur.

- A Couple Of Tests

I built a rig out of lolipop sticks for my camera and stuck these boxes to it. Camera rig mark 2 is currently under construction, addressing some camera wobble issues. I'm gonna make a whole film based around these ideas.



29/06/15 - Dot, Squiggle And Rest

This piece of animation is a bit weird out of context, but that's how I like it. It's from a show for early years kids called Dot, Squiggle and Rest, a joint production between Polka Theatre and the Royal Opera House.

This part of the show was developed from a proposal I made during the initial R&D session for the project, the idea being for the musicians to interpret the animated images (in this case a dot following variously shaped lines) as they would a more traditional musical score, similar to the graphic notation technique developed in the 50's by experimental composers. It was good fun playing about with these, and we felt it would be an engaging idea for the kids to enjoy, so once the theme of the garden emerged it seemed sensible to replace the dots with the struggling little Ladybird. I then worked pretty closely with the composer, Elspeth Brooke, to figure out the structure of the sequence, the various kinds of shapes to use and the build up of the mini narrative so that she could write the music for it, leaving some space for the performers to interact with the animation. Here are a few of the most relevant original proposals edited together...

Dot, Squiggle And Rest is on at the Polka Theatre in Wimbledon from 26th June to 16th August

Directed by Joy Haynes
Music and sound design by Elspeth Brooke
Performed by Jasmiina Sipila, Zosia Jagodzinska and Sarah Dacey
Set design by Michalis Kokkoliadis
lighting design by Azusa Ono

Photos from Polka Theatre website

24/06/15 - Laser Cut Zoetrope

This is what I would've exhibited in Paris, had that gone ahead. It's the first zoetrope that I've not actually physically made myself, as you can probably tell. I designed it all in After Effects, Sketchup and Ilustrator and sent it off to the nice people at Flux in Glasgow to get laser cut and engraved in clear acrylic.

It looks pretty good under certain lighting conditions, but it's still not quite what I was after - the circle animations are probably a bit too subtle and possibly too crowded, and I would've preferred a more solid look I think. Below are some of the mock ups I made...

I'm gonna give zoetropes a break for a bit now (there's another one in the works, coming soon), and make a music video or something.

13/04/15 - That Zoetrope I've Been On About For Two Years

Here it is! This edit's been sitting around twiddling it's thumbs for ages as I wasn't happy with it really, but what the heck here it is anyway. Might get around to doing sound for it one day, but I've said that before.

Ok, a bit more detail, if you insist. The idea for this one was to create this eerie, writhing object that could be viewed as a whole and that would reveal more detailed levels of animation as you got closer to it. This just didn't work, whether it was because of the materials I used, the density of the layers and ink or the lighting set up, I'm not too sure. However, I tried to salvage something from the footage so I ended up layering and compiositing it in after effects, with fairly interesting results I guess - I just don't really like doing that with these zoetropes because I feel it takes something away from the technique. Anyway, next one coming soon...

11/11/14 - BYOB - NeoN Closing Party

Another tentative step towards the Paris exhibition next year, I tested out a zoetrope in public for the first time the other night.
BYOB (Bring Your Own Beamer) was this year's closing party for the NeoN digital arts festival in Dundee, and they put out an open call for people bring their stuff along to project. I was really just interested to see how it would work in an exhibition-like space, how people would react to it, would they get what was going on, would there be too much going on, would it just look good and make sense etc etc.

Here's the set up (no decent video unfortunately, as my camera was providing the live feed for the wall projection). It's basically the same as the IPT2 video, but it was all happening live in the space.

I think it actually worked really well and is probably the best way to present the zoetropes, as it's all laid bare in front of you so it's easy to make the connections and understand what's going on, as opposed to the videos I post online, which I think require too much of an explanation of the processes behind them. Looking forward to coming up with something fancy for this exhibition now :)

06/11/14 - Cardboard Quickie

It looks like I'm going to be taking part in an exhibition in Paris next year (more on that as it happens), involving some sort of zoetrope set up, so I wanted to start thinking about the sort of thing I might do for it. The 20 layer stuff I've been playing about with (see previous posts) is far too flimsy to be carting across Europe I think, so I need to come up with something more sturdy for the trip. I put this cardboard thing together without too much thought, over a couple of weeks I had to spare recently.

It has the usual problem of the central parts not really working properly and it doesn't really work well when the whole object is in view (hence the series of close up shots in that video), but I like the pulsating movement and the flickering colours. I've already got more ideas on how to take this approach forward, possibly inviolving a laser cutter for more intricate stuff, if I can get access to one.

Here's a Photoshop mock up.

08/10/14 - Some Abstract Ideas

These are just a few quick animations I put together as part of my research for a job I'm working on at the moment. They're a bit too intense for the 2 year old target audience, so I thought I'd put them here instead. The sound is done in Nanoloop, a bit of software that allows you to play about with the sound chip of the original grey brick Gameboy.

03/07/14 - Zoetrope Update

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.

Here's a link!

- Some Smallpetitklein Bits

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. (Edit: I've stuck the finished poster for the show in here now too)

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 it's 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 bit weeks.

The TED-Ed website is designed as a resource for teachers, and if you go to the individual page for any of the animations you can use the video as a starting point to devise a more in depth 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 of 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 :)

- 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 after quite a 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 the price 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, should they break.

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 the character design and animation and I was in charge of art direction and compositing as well as the effects and rabbit animation.

26/07/12 - 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 structure of the buildings rather than the falling figures, mainly because I was too scared 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 Base (Venue 22) 14-16 Grassmarket, Edinburgh. More details here.

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 Dance Partnership...

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 it here.

18/04/12 - What On Earth!? - Finished!

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 Weinachter (who 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 have hoped for thanks to them, and of course Sally Owen who choreographed this section. Thanks guys!

EDIT: The soundtrack has been muted on Youtube because it's a Beatles track and I guess they're fussy about these sorts of things. Just imagine 'Because' by the Beatles if you can :D Sorry!

Needless to say, there were one or two technical issues to sort out during the technical rehearsals, but I guess that's what 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 wide angle lense being used and the fact that the projector didn't seem to support the 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 projector 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 glaring white 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 options (as well as pretty much every other setting, out of desperation) on the projector, but I ended up having to adjust some of the brighter layers in one of the original animations (the clouds in Duck's Dream) and re-render the whole thing. Apparently this is a common problem though that could also have been solved by hanging some white gauze in front of the screen to diffuse the light slightly. You live and learn :)

Those were the only major problems though, the rest of the setting up process was (for me anyway) pretty relaxed. The lighting designer, 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 Emma!

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 had more time to work on them, mainly to add more detail to certain bits such as the end of the Shadery section where you hear the sound of the trees being chopped down - it would've been nice to play 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 to keep 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

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