I’ve found a bit of open source software called pencil 2d. James is already familiar with working on a computer using a pen tablet. Thats how he does most of his drawing. The software seems quite simple and intuitive and I’d hoped it’d be a great way for James to work. Unfortunately his computer needs and OS update in order to run and it’s not my computer so I am unwilling to just do it. Confident though I am that everything would be fine. I think his dad was going to have a look at it tonight, so maybe it’ll be updated and I can give it another go tomorrow.
Luckily I had a plan B up my sleeve. I purchased a peg bar for each of the artists. a simple animation device on which one puts sheets of appropriately hole punched paper. This keeps the drawings on the paper lined up. I did a quick 10 frame bouncing ball loop and photographed it with an animation app on my phone. One of the advantages of working this way is that you can see through the layers of paper to previous drawings which grants greater control than something like a flip book. Much like the flip book; James got stuck in and did a 100 frame sequence. He was pretty focused on that so I went upstairs and had a cup of tea with his mum.
Drawings done, we scanned them using Image Capture on his mac then imported the stills in to iMovie where they became an animation. I’m very impressed with how readily he took to the technique.
Today I met James. He has a small office in the basement of the house. We talked for a while about his hopes and goals as a film maker. He’s really ambitious! Already I think he might find the disparity between what he imagines and what he currently has the skills to produce to be frustrating. We started small with a flip book. Using reference cards and a foldover clip just like at the Lynx centre in Weston. First I did a very simple and quick one of a circle expanding. I showed it to James and he ‘got it’ and immediately set to work on one of his own. He didn’t seem overly happy with the results, but for a first go it was really pretty good, and I told him as much!
I met Angela at her tiny flat in San Antonio. There are art materials everywhere and the walls are adorned with artwork. We talked for a while about the project and allayed her fears that we expect a finished animation made to a soundtrack that we’ll provide, reiterating that we’ll be taking everything that the artists produce and then cutting that in to the visual element of the piece. We talked a lot the first day I was there about her art and herself. I asked some research questions and I’ve since emailed them to her as a potential jumping off point to maybe inspire some artwork and animation for the project.
I bought some reference cards and foldover clips to make some flip books with, and also a peg bar and some punched paper – animators stock-in-trade – to try doing some simple animation. She has a glass drafting table which, with the addition of a lamp underneath will be perfect for traditional animation. Currently though it is stacked edge to edge with art materials and other possessions. She has said she would like to try using paint on the glass surface to do some animation. To that end I procured a tripod for her that can cantilever out so she will be able to set up a camera/ipad over the table with a birds eye view.
There was rather a lack of flat space to do any work, but Angela has an iPad pro with apple pencil that she uses for a lot of digital art. We installed an app called ‘animation studio’ for doing drawn animation and she took to it quite readily. she’s quite familiar with drawing on the ipad so it isn’t much of a leap. We also put a stop motion app on there so she can use the ipad (or a digital still camera) to do some stop motion. I did a quick demonstrator just with the ipad off the edge of a table and moving things on the floor. It was a bit of a challenge to do much animation there as at the time she didn’t have any space to work in. She is very enthusiastic and excited about the project and I look forward to seeing what she makes! I’ve told her to get in touch if she’s any questions or wants any feedback, but I’ll be in touch in a couple of weeks when I’m back in the UK and see how she’s getting on.
CTS Trainer Dom Pitt is in San Antonio, Texas working with Artist Angela Weddle, one of the awesome creatives we’ve been connected to via Debra Muzikar at the Art of Autism
More to follow…
The final workshop has come and gone. I’ve really enjoyed these six and would rather like to return to Lynx to do more.
For this last session in this series we attempted something a bit more grandiose. A culmination of that which had been learned in the previous weeks. A group project. The subject, suggested by Lena at NAS was meeting new people/being the new person. As a group we discussed what that is like and based on that came up with a simple scenario. A person approaches a group of people, says hello, gets invited to go bowling and subsequently goes bowling.
Once we had our scenario worked out we wrote a list of the things we would need and divvied up their production among the group. Since we have left all of the things made by the group in previous weeks with the Lynx Centre we already had a ready made cast, but the main character was made from new.
The initial plan was to show how our character is feeling with a series of close ups of their face. Time however was not on our side. It is rather difficult and time consuming to portray complex, subtle emotions even for an experienced animator so instead we opted to use the slightly cheaty medium of the ‘thought bubble’ to more easily communicate the characters thoughts and feelings. We did get to use the close up trick to show the perhaps less nuanced sad face to happy face later on in the film though.
Eleven thirty rolled around and the group went off to film club, their animation only half finished. Not an achievement to be sniffed at though. Much of the first session was spent writing the story and making models and thought bubbles. Group 2 came to the rescue and finished the film off, completing the introduction sequence and adding the bowling and close up shots.
I have been really impressed by how much these groups have achieved across these relatively short sessions. The Lynx iPads have istopmotion of them and we have left them with all of the models that have been made over the six weeks so I really hope at least a couple have picked up the taste and carry on making things.
This final session brought together all the skills the participants had been able to practice in the previous workshops to create a fantastic short film about friendship.
The work that went into this film involved the participants thinking about how they may feel when meeting new people in social situations.
The film allowed the participants to convey their autistic ‘voice’ in the alternative medium of stop animation.
Everyone was able to partake, whether it was making the models or speech bubbles or moving the models or operating the iPad.
Members of the animation group at Lynx seem to have really enjoyed the workshops. They seem enthusiastic about purchasing ‘The Animator’s Survival Kit’ book which outlines in detail the technicalities of walking in animation. They have also been left with access to an iPad with a stop animation app on it such that they can continue to use the skills they have learnt to convey messages about autism to the autistic, and wider, communities.
After the success of the first lip-syncing workshop I thought I’d try and push it a bit further with a spot of character interaction. I got the guys to co-operate in producing a character interaction, some kind of short conversation. The sessions ended up being relatively brief. Like this one.
Buoyed by a new supply of fresh plasticine there was model-making mayhem. I’m a particular fan of the orange and deep purple characters. In that piece they also used coloured backgrounds and giant plasticine facial features to make ultra close up versions of the character’s faces. It worked fantastically.
There was also a rather nifty conversation between a cat and a snail. I think this group have really got their collective head around the basics of lip sync. With a bit of practise they could get rather good at it.
This week the focus was on lip syncing and sound breakdown. Members of the group were encouraged to think about the different movements made by the mouth when speaking and then to make these shapes out of Plasticine. These models were then accompanied with sound through the use of an app. Examples of some works are pictured below.
Some members of the group continued work from the previous sessions. So again, the chance to make motion pictures with mirrors was given with the bringing in of the praxinoscope and zoetrope – some great designs were created!
Other members were innovative enough to combine the skills they had learnt with the lip syncing and apply
them to making a flip book.
Stop motion animation was also continued with various clay models being made and manipulated. One example below being the squashing of a penguin!
As always, everyone involved had an interesting session where they were able to think about lots of different aspects of animation and try them out for themselves.
This week I brought some reference cards and foldover clips along and flipbooks were made. I had several examples which were eagerly thumbed through. Only a couple of people really got into flipbook making but I’ll bring more supplies next week and I think other people will come around to it. I think it might seem a bit of a daunting task as there is a fair amount of drawing involved. Really you need at least 20 pages to get a good flip on the go and you have to draw every page from scratch so it isn’t like stop motion where you can just move a thing and take a picture.
Some people are quite self conscious about their drawing abilities and so an iPad came out again to play along with a bit of Lego. Again; some excellent minifigure walking was produced. I don’t know if some people are less keen to leave their comfort zones than others or if the people who will try a wider range of things have a larger comfort zone to begin with. I’d like to to be able to instill the message that it is fine if something isn’t quite right or even looks bad because you can learn from it and move forward.
A roaring success of this week’s session was the praxinoscope. A Victorian persistence of vision toy where drawings on a disc are reflected in a cone of mirrors and when you spin it the drawings come alive. Some wonderful things were made with this from bouncing balls through to some pretty nifty abstract shapes. I think it’s popularity comes down to the immediacy of the device. you do some drawings on a bit of paper, put it on the praxinoscope and give it a spin. Then you see moving pictures right away. Next week I hope to bring a bigger one which is a bit more like a zoetrope in that you work on a long strip of paper rather than a flat disc.
I tried to get people a bit excited about pixillation – using people and objects as the things to be animated – and I busted out the laptop to show some good examples. Shiny, a film made with clothes and Fresh Guacamole
by animation legend PES among others.
While examples elicited a good response it didn’t really fly. It could be partially because the space is rather limited in the room but there is always a bit of a barrier when trying to get people up and moving around, especially if at least one of those people is to be on camera!
Again Jess did some fantastically paced plasticine stop motion and really took on board any advice she was given.
I did break out the lego for this session in conjunction with Michel Gondry’s video for the White Stripes’ Fell In Love With A Girl
as an example of a way it can be used. It didn’t get used that way. Tom did some really excellent walks with a minifigre though. Several in fact. Each time improving on the last. I think he could do some really exciting stuff if he’d step outside his comfort zone. Though given the time animation takes it’d need to be more of a stroll than a step… The rest of the lego was used to great effect by other people in conjunction with plasticine.