Wednesday, December 7, 2011

SS1- Reflection & Evaluation

PROJECT BRIEF:
Developing narrative based on adaptation
Learning Outcome: Personal interpretation
                             Skills & Experimentation

Purpose & Intent

With storytelling being one of my main areas of interest, I want to challenge my problem solving skills for the same where I can offer solutions to existing story lines. The project also gives me the opportunity to experiment and test out my technical skills in areas I wish to improve, primarily Flash, as I hope to use it for my upcoming project. By working out a series of animation tests from the story I plan to work on, not only will I improve on my animation skills but also help me plan out my production timing and therefore enable me to animate efficiently for my future projects. 


Target Audience
Story tellers and visualizers. By researching on various genres and interpretations of storytelling, I could explore and work out my own narrative strategies to develop my story.


Medium
Flash, particularly is my weapon of choice because I would personally like to see the scope of animation on it and moreover improve on my frame by frame animation skills.


Platform
A Flash animated trailer clip that condenses my adapted story well enough to manifest what the story will be about.


Action Plan
Storytelling and animation is the main area of focus with my priority towards skill sets. The reason I pick to do an adaptation is so that I don't focus excessively on a new storyline but make few alterations to it. Once the story adaptation is tweaked, I can then focus on improving on my animation skills in Flash by working on the trailer clip.


Learning Outcome
- The project will enable to offer solutions to narrative development.
- I will learn to work within sets of guidelines
- It will help me improve my animation skills and help work efficiently for my Major Project.


EVALUATION:


Looking back on the purpose of the project, I am evidently a case of 'I wish I had done this....I wish I hadn't done that....'. However, the blunders made in this project have really been more than beneficial on an educational front. 


In summary, the purpose of choosing an existing story for my project was essentially to avoid spending too much time developing a new one and therefore, concentrate on improving my animation skills. However in the midst of the project, I ultimately committed the error of focusing excessively on my 'adapted storyline', eventually neglecting a major portion of my animation.


Some of the noteworthy lessons for me include: 
Being clear on the objectives of the project (Making sure I DONT focus on story, when my focus was set on animation!)
Production efficiency based on given time span (How many seconds of animation is feasible with given time)
Focus on the 'process' in order to have a desirable output! (It's the journey that counts)


REFLECTION:


On a more critical note, the project has allowed me to fulfill my learning outcomes even if not to a hundred percent. The process of adapting a story enabled me to manipulate a narrative from different points of view. The overall scope of adaptation is vast as it can apply to any area of storytelling including plot, genre, character, time period etc. The task of tweaking the story allowed me to play with various narrative strategies and in turn develop my own methodologies. Working out the numerous thumbnails and playing with visual metaphors only added to my problem solving strategy. 


Moreover, considering the time factor for the project, I knew I did not want to over work on the character design for the story. By looking into the works of Lotte Reiniger's cut outs of shadow play and Michel Gagne's flash animated series of shadow planet, I was inspired into using shadow and silhouetted designs which I could simplify as per my requirement. This approach did save me from spending extra time on working out complex designs for my character. 

Michel Gagne
Lotte Reiniger




Despite having to halt mid way through the storyboarding process, I managed to fully create an exposition sequence for my adaptation of Harold & the Purple Crayon. It was imperative for me to give a backdrop to my character before adapting the rest of the original story. Therefore the outcome was an animatic giving an introduction to the event that led Harold to live a popular tale. 


PAUL WELLS was the only friend I had
Reading...reading...and more reading....Now I know how a screenwriter feels

I couldn't successfully produce a finished storyboard as I went overdue on that. Not only did I spend overtime on the story telling but I also lost time to animate my 10 second teaser clip. However, still aiming for my learning outcomes, I worked out some lines tests for my character which really gave me a good familiarization with frame by frame animation on Flash and it's efficiency in cases of strict deadlines. Perhaps if I were to work on a large scale production with limited time and one that focused heavily on narrative, I would opt for a more simplified technique of animating on flash like cut outs or motion tween. 


At one point during the project, I did go through a phase of thinking why is my project so boring? Clearly it was then I should have noted that I was going off track somewhere from my original brief. I learned now towards the end of the project, the reason why. However, all's not lost as I produced work that does relate to my learning outcomes and I'm hoping I take these lessons forward and produce something I am actually proud of.

SS1- Line tests

Initially, my aim was to produce either one of 2 versions of an animation. A 5 second clip depicting an action from my story or a 10-15 second trailer clip. However, given the time constraints, I reflected back upon one of my learning outcomes which was to improve on my animation skills. At this stage of the project, I didn't want to go back to working on my thumbnails and storyboard to perfect the story in order to create a trailer. Hence, it was best I stuck to micro projects like that of line tests which would allow me to explore frame by frame animation on Flash which isn't my strongest skill. Therefore, below are a few animation line tests I worked out on Flash comprising of basic movements just to familiarize myself with the production time on flash and overcome my fear of frame by frame! 


I created a basic walk cycle for my character which goes on 8 fps, to give it a more medium and cartoon like walk. Unfortunately couldn't work out a loop on this for some strange reason. 


Generally, a short legged character could work out a super fast run cycle on 6 frames and I decided to stay on a frame rate of 6. However, in the midst of my animation I somehow naturally inclined to exaggerating the legs to form stretches, which wasn't really the intention based on the structure of my character. The outcome was that of a very broken run with too much spacing. 


Clearly, the run of long legged characters works better on a higher frame rate of 8 and therefore, I changed it accordingly which gave me a much smoother output. Lesson learned, don't pull out an extra limb from the character while animating!!!


I decided to work on a piece of action from my adapted story where Harold is beginning
to draw a door with his crayon in order to escape from his room. The piece was particularly tricky in terms of getting the arc of the hand movement precise.
                             

I have just added the basic contour structure of my character to the previous line test
to match the movement more precisely and maintain the accuracy of the body shape. This was relatively successful compared to the run cycle wherein I elongated the legs more than required.
                             

A rather unsuccessful piece of line test where I was quickly trying to capture the
gesture of Harold scribbling on the wall. However, this was at the initial stage when my design 
for the character wasn't finalized.
                             

SS1- Animatic (Story exposition)

Having worked on the series of thumbnails endlessly, I focused excessively on the opening sequences of my story which is the exposition of Harold's journey. The actual event that caused him to create his own world and run away from the real world. I really felt the need to give a backdrop to my adaptation else I wasn't keen on just simply recreating a children's book without an elaborate storyline. 


Unfortunately, I was unable to finish adapting the entire story except in bits. I have therefore stopped taking my storyboard forward hereon and will move onto tests on 'Flash. Reason being, I spent unnecessarily a major amount of my time perfecting the story when my main aim originally was to focus on animation tests in order to improve my skills on flash. Therefore, my animatic below is only the exposition portion of Harold's story before he runs away from home, using his purple crayon.


Exposition- Animatic from Roshni Kakad on Vimeo.

The story begins with establishing Harold as a mischievous child with his action of scribbling on the wall and is caught off guard when his mother witnesses the same. Evidently she sends him to his room indicating that he's grounded and not too happy about it. Fading into Harold'd room, he is drawing onto a sheet of paper which clearly is indicative of the after effect of his punishment where he isn't drawing on the wall. The purpose of drawing the bird is again a symbolic element which describes freedom. The freedom referred to here is Harold's wish to do as he pleases in his purple crayon scribbled world. Suddenly, when the drawing of the bird comes to life and flies out the window, it is that moment which gives him a reason to ponder over the possibilities of the magic crayon he holds.


The thumbnails below are sequences that follow after the initial exposition. They basically show Harold making another drawing of a dog to convince himself of the magical crayon which causes him to crumple the paper in angst as the dog protrudes out of the paper and barks at him. Being convinced, Harold contemplates an escape by drawing a door on his wall which then creaks open. It is thereon, that his journey of the purple crayon world begins.


 

 

SS1- Comparisons

While working on the rough thumbnails, it was important for me to constantly keep track of the actual visuals from the story in order to take notes and make comparison between the original and my reconstructed version. Specially in the case of visual metaphors, it was actually quite fun to place the image side by side and see the difference.  


In this bit for instance: Harold originally draws a dragon which scares him. However, there is no interaction as such between the two and moreover the dragon wouldn't really be considered as a character from the story.

In my version, I take the scenario of a monster that Harold drew and is chased by it. Or even the case of Harold drawing a UFO which turns out to have an alien flying the craft. The depiction here could be that of perils of the outside world by encountering strangers.



Another key event from the original story is where Harold is trying to find his way home by drawing and climbing onto a mountain which doesn't have another side to it, causing him to fall mid air.

I replace the mountain with a staircase that leads to the direction of the moon. Reason being, in the backdrop of my story, Harold actually runs away from home by drawing a door with his purple crayon. It therefore, didn't make any sense to have a mountain, so a flight of steps was a better option to match with a door. That door then leads him to a blank space where he creates an ambience for himself by drawing the moon while the door shuts behind him. The reason why the door is placed at the top of the staircase is because of Harold's recollection of where the moon was exactly placed when he ran away from home. 


However, it's in this very sequence where Harold takes a fall originally.

 I decide to do the same but instead of having a mountain without another side to it, my staircase won't have another side to it. Hence when Harold passes through the door at the top of the staircase, he takes a tumble and falls mid air and loses his crayon.

In the original story, while falling, Harold manages to save himself by drawing a hot air balloon and landing to safety. However, I decide to use the technique of a match cut from Harold falling mid air to Harold falling off his bed, turning out that he just woke up from a bad dream. Rather than showing Harold solve his own problem, I decided to create the ending in a way that brings to him a sense of realization that he shouldn't have run away from home in the first place. At the same time, I didn't want the effect to be that of a sad ending. Therefore, as cliched as it may be, having him wake up from a nightmare was better than having an audience of kids cringe over Harold's misery of falling and having a fade out before he breaks his bones!




Certain shots, I've redesigned are done in a way to help those who have actually read the book, to draw reminders from the actual story wherein the elements have just been replaced, in attempt of trying to stay close to the story theme as much as possible.

When Harold actually remembers that his room window was always right around where the moon was, that visual only gave me a better reason to instead have Harold draw the door in my story. The same door which he took off from was the very same that he expected to lead him home. In a way, it all made sense to me as he draws the door from his room to escape and run away and searches for that very door he came from. I somehow didn't see any reason to have him fly a hot air balloon and discover a city with numerous buildings and suddenly hit with realization as to where his house was. I think he was better off with a punch from a nightmare to bring him to realization. Yes, I have been mean to my character! But he had to learn it the hard way!


SS1- Thumbnailing



My first attempt was to use a technique I came across in a chapter from a book in which Paul Wells states while doing a case study on Caroline Leaf's 'The Street'. In the case of adaptation, it involves drawing a meaning from the text, filtering it through a highly personalized creative consciousness and finally  redetermining the text which ultimately offers a perspective on dominant motifs, narrative events and affecting detail.


Therefore, to practically apply it, I decided to thumbnail sequences from the children's book 'Harold and the Purple Crayon making sure I referenced the animated short as well.
This was to help me have the original story in order before I reconstruct the story.





STORY SPLINE






I then infused another interesting approach to my adaptation using 'Story Spline'. This was taught to us in class by our tutor and I knew then that this was the easiest way to initiate a fresh concept, especially for people like myself who have trouble putting events in a logical sequence. Even though the story spline may not be the final output, it gives a good kickstart to making ones imagination run wild with ideas. 








Having the skeletal structure in place, I knew then what I wanted to manipulate in terms of adapting. Adaptations can apply not just to the story line but it also to plots, characters, genre, time period etc. What I decided to play upon was visual metaphors from particular shots of the story. I was therefore not going to change the entire story but play around with elements within the story and most importantly, give a backdrop to my character which gave me some amount of freedom to play around with the story line.