The King the the two Artists

Brief: Text

For this assignment I decided to create a sequence based on a written text. I have a book called ‘Wall and piece’ by the graffiti artist Banksy. The book contains a brief story which has no title and no author. The source of the story says ‘A man in a pub’, therefore it was not written by Banksy.

The story counts 390 words. By using a computer voice I could understand that it would take approximately 2 minutes or so to be read.

I chose the ‘text’ brief because I wanted to dedicate a lot of time thinking about the story and how to visualise it instead of writing my own brief. Furthermore, the story I chose hasn’t been visualised it yet, it can only be found in a written format. I wanted to challenge myself to create an animation without relying on other existent videos.

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In the book, the source of the story says: a man in a pub

Analysis of the story

I printed the story on a A4 sheet of paper and started to analyse the text while writing down key words and highlighting important text. The story conveys suspense, it entertains the reader until the end with a surprising finale. What I found interesting was the diversity of the characters in the story. The court painter is admired by the king and the whole kingdom whereas the other artist is described as a ‘dirty and dishevelled stranger’. The competition between the two artists doesn’t seem fair since the beginning. However, the ending has a twist and sees the stranger artist prevails over the court painter.

The moral of the story is not to judge a person from their appearance.

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This is how I have analysed the story: each colour highlights different information.

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A bottle of wine

I wanted to create an animation using a different delivery format.

My idea was to apply the moral of the story to a packaging design, using the story itself to promote the product.

I started to think about wine and how some people judge its taste and quality by the design of the label. Would people buy a wine which has an ugly label for instance? Most of them won’t, even if that wine is actually really good.

A wine without a label can taste better that a wine with a nice designed label. That’s what inside that matters. Therefore, my idea was to design a label that could be ripped of the bottle of wine. The bottle with either the beautiful design stuck on it or without anything still contains a good quality wine.

The label is design as a sequence of frames from the ‘King and the two Artists’ story. If the bottle quickly spin around the label comes to life and the animation can be seen.

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Very first sketches of the bottle concept. “I can either use a written text or a voice over to tell the story but I have to have some visuals. Which format of video can I use? Stop motions? Drawing? Projections?…No, let’s think of something different!”

 

 

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To persuade the customer to reveal the meaning of the story (that can’t be understand by just watching the spinning animation), the label as to be ripped off the bottle. The dialogs of the story are written on the inside of the label.

Try and fail

Before starting to design the label I wanted to make sure that the animation can be seen as the bottle spins around. I created some mockups with some frames from animations I found on the internet.

I stuck the sequence on a bottle of wine, spun it and see what happened. My eye couldn’t focus of the small images as they moved too fast. On the other hand, if the bottle spun slower, the animation still wasn’t noticeable. I tired to use a cylindric shape with a bigger diameter than the bottle’s but still, I couldn’t achieve the result i was hoping for.

Failed.

 

A different approach

I sadly say goodbye to the label idea even though I thought it was a good/original way to present the animation. I decided to illustrate the animation as a video with a person who would narrate it.

I spent some time creating different storyboards. I started by dividing a piece of paper in rectangles and as an automatic voice read the story, I was quickly drawing a rough storyboard just to understand the flow of the text. I then re-drew it with more details.

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For the final story board, I got many post-its to draw on so that I could arrange them in a more flexible way. I arranged them on my sketch book and wrote the text of the story just above each post-it. I ended up with more that 40 post-its each one representing a sequence of the animation.

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I scanned all of them, printed and arranged on a straight line that I could hand on the wall. I had then full control on all the animation would be visualise, which camera angle I had to get and the facial expressions of the characters.

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Displaying the story board in a linear way gave me much more control over the long sequence.

Character design

I hand-drew the king in many style and poses. I was happy with this style, simple, pleased to watch but still not too cartoonish.

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Mark Chaudoir’s was interesting but I still managed to have some time to draw the initial sketches for the king character. I didn’t know what the final king would look like so I started drawing basic model without any facial expressions.

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I liked the rounded face in the bottom-left. Ralph did as well, so I started to draw the other characters with using the same style.
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Dishevelled stranger at the top-right and the court painter at the bottom. In the previous picture there is also the drawing of the sparrow.

I had many individual tutorials with Ralph during this phase of work. We talked about the story, storyboards, character design and environment design. The meetings were really helpful since he provided me with many references to look at and useful tips on how to design part of the animation.

I found this short animation style really nice. I like the simplicity of it. The technique the animator used to draw and animate the character is really simple. The shape of the stickman is composed by just two drawing which quickly repeat themselves in a fast loop giving the illusion of a stop motion animation. I found that this technique might be helpful in my case to draw the three different main characters since it doesn’t required a long time to create for a long 2 minutes animation.

I tried to draw the court painter for example. I animated it with After Effects and applied a background that moved to give the illusion of a zooming into a scene. I didn’t like the result. I know it might have looked better if I had put more effort in designing and animating the painter but I wanted to move on and try a different technique.

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I drew each part of the body and objects  twice so that I could play them alternatively in a fast loop.

My first attempt to animate the character: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qsl-PQQy1dA&feature=youtu.be

CINEMA 4D

I didn’t want to use Cinema 4D at first. This software is not easy to use and needs to be studied first otherwise it might be really complicated to use. However, as I was talking to Ralph I took the decision to use Cinema 4D that I had experience before with rather than learning a new software called Maya as the tutor suggested.

At this point of the project the Christmas holidays were about to start and therefore, I decided to plan all I needed to make the animation before flying back to Italy.

ENVIRONMENTS!

When I read the story I could easily visualise the animation in my mind. It was all shot in a big castle with big hallways, a majestic king room and an enormous wooden doorway.

My aim was to recreate this style. It is difficult to explain but I knew how it had to look in my mind. Going through the storyboard I planned all the environments I had to recreate so that I knew which pictures I had to take.

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In Verona, my city, there are probably more churches than pubs therefore, I focused on different church designs.

I spent few days wandering around my city and visiting places I had never visited before in order to get all the photographs useful for the animation.

Using photoshop, a lot of imagination, and some amazing techniques in Cinema 4D I was able to recreate a 3 dimensional environment out of a single 2 dimensional photo. This technique allowed me to place a virtual camera in the scene to create a realistic depth of field look. Here below I compared the original pictures after they were Photoshopped and after being converted in the 3 dimensional environments.

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I was also planning to shoot the intro for the animation as shown by the storyboard where the camera hovers around a mountain with the castle on top. This is the drawing of the castle. Below there are the renderings of the castle from different perspectives.

 

CHARACTERS!

This was the hard part. I started to design the king refereeing to the drawing I had previously drawn. I created a simple model that I then rigged. The rig emulates a skeleton that can be moved to create realistic human movements.

The most difficult part was to created the cloths for the king. There is not a specific tool called ‘coat’ or ‘dress’. The tool ‘cloth’ helped me to achieve a good result. After about one week, 40 hours of working and some mental breakdowns I finished designing the king, the court painter and the dishevelled artist.

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I struggled trying to “dress up” the king. I watched a tutorial in Lynda.com for some tips taking some notes about settings for the cloth dynamics.

 

Animating using Cinema 4D and Vray (Vray is a professional extension for Cinema 4D that helps to achieve high quality realistic renderings). (this is also the reason Daniela couldn’t help me with the project since I was using a third-part plug-in that she didn’t know how to use it)

Around the end of the first week of January I had all the characters ready to placed in the different environments previously created.

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The rendering of a single frame looks much better than the animation itself because I could use settings for high resolution images. This frame for instance took about 10 minutes to render. This would mean 10minutes x 24frames to render one second of animation.

I started to animate the first scene which sees the camera zooming into the king room while the court painter is painting a portrait of the king seated on his throne. The rendering of these 8 seconds of animation took around 17 hours. The result at the end is not even close of what I imagined. The clothes didn’t moved properly, there is a lot of flickering created by the lights and only the king is on focus. All these problems are difficult to fix for several reasons. One of the main reason why I spent so much time in just few seconds of animation is the speed of my computer. Even though I left the software to render over night it often happened that it crashed or stops for god knows what reason. Furthermore, while the software is rendering, I wasn’t able to use it as it was likely to crash.

I have spent an average of 6 hours everyday for one month to render about 30 seconds of animation.

As Alice suggested, as the final outcome, I presented the first 30 seconds animation and then different animatics. All the scene from the first second to the (say how long the animation is) are animated, I just couldn’t render all the animation with my computer, therefore, I only rendered the most important frames.

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17hours for 7 seconds of animation. At the end I forgot to use the auto focus so part of the video is not on focus.
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First scene, 8 seconds, 17 hours. Forgot to check a setting and the characters produce strange shadows.
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By lowering the resolution by half, (from 1920×1080 to 1280×720) the animation render faster. It still takes more than 7 hours.

Visitor speakers (notes)

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Brief description of the video

This sequence is more likely a short cartoon, a short, like the ones which are projected before the beginning of a movie at the cinema. The characters’ simple appearance with smooth curved lines and not so many details could be adapted and dressed for different occasions and assume multiple personalities. This makes them flexible and easy to work with. I could see them projected before the movies in multiple short animation that narrate different and entraining stories. Everyone could really be the audience, kids, adults, everyone. The fact that I got the story from a book that could be read by anyone and enjoy by anyone basically says it all. I couldn’t think of someone who could commission me this work.. I would say that a big production company might be interests to work with me and their team to create more animations similar to this one.

Critical evaluation

Study before doing anything. This is what this unit thought me. Studying a software before using it, do not immediately dive into making sometimes you are not able to. My time management was awful. I should have take a week to study Cinema 4D and the fundaments of animation before starting to work on my sequence. I was confident I could finish on time before the website part of the unit started but it didn’t happen.

I learnt the importance of storyboard and planning an animation. Having spent a good week on this part I am happy with my different sketches, several storyboard attempts and also my initial ‘spinning bottle’ concept which unfortunately didn’t work.

I have never mentioned the workshops I attended during this part of the unit. One of the first one that involved us to storyboard part of a musical turned out to be really helpful for me. I found this technique of immediately drawing what you hear very powerful as it gives a first good base for the initial sketches of the more detailed storyboard.

Other that this, I also had an interesting meeting with Mark (film maker from BBC). At the first stage of the animation when I only had the drawings of the characters he was surprised on how much work I achieved in such a short period of time. He suggested to keep going in that direction and work on the camera angles to make the overall animation more entertaining. The meeting with him gave me a lot of trust and help me to understand that I was in the right path. It was really important to hear those words at that point.

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