Monday, 19 May 2014

Castle Sinister: Deluxe Screening Edition

I've tinkered with it, and this version will be screened on the 23rd May. Cleaner edges. More Foley. New opening scene showing off the castle itself.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Castle Sinister: Submission edition

Here is my film, as submitted for hand-in.

I'm incredibly happy with my work, but I've noticed a few small errors I wish to resolve for the screening on the 23rd of May. A flash-frame before the sorcerer's transformation, a bit of unusual movement when one of the creatures get shot. One scene was coloured in a hurry, and could be cleaner. Expect an improved version within a week, with the added bonus of the spooky castle exteriour shown at the beginning.


Here is my showreel, as submitted for hand-in. It's made up of what little concept sketches, stop-motion, and after-effects work I had availible. I wanted to put more new stop-motion and two-dimensional work in there, and will try to produce some for an improved showreel over the next few weeks.

The music is by The Presidents of the United States of America

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Still here

Well. I've been keeping quiet, but I'm still working on it. I'm now working faster than I used to, either because of experience or sheer blind panic making me focused. I'm working on about three or four shots a day. Cleaning, compositing, rendering. I still need to clean about twenty shots, about four of those aren't animated at all yet. Colourists are working well, but I'm still staying up late with bits of colouring I want to do, either because I'm not sure how I want them to be coloured yet, or because I want creative control on the complicated bits with lots of layers. I'm not sure if I'm on track for submission. It's looking like it could go easily either way, and I'm seriously considering the possibility it being late... I don't want to take the 10% hit on my grade, but I do want this thing to be finished before I hand it in. It has been suggested that some of us wait until next year to submit. It seems like that would be a big commitment, but it's oddly tempting... My arm hurts. My little finger on my right hand is developing a distinct sheen and pinkness where the knuckles rub against the paper. There was a fire drill today. I'm not waking up as early as I want to be. I haven't got anywhere near enough supporting work ready for submission. The next four days I will be locked out of the building for Easter bank-holidays. I'm not sure I'll get any work done at home in that time. I can colour. I have the same software at home. My hard-drive doesn't work with the uni computers, so I can't bring my project home very easily, or back it up properly. I've done the best I can with a large memory stick.

Anyway. Lots of little gripes, brain and body are suffering a lot. Going mad. Seems to be the usual thing about now. Watch this space, the the first of May is approaching!

Friday, 14 March 2014

Showing Progress

We had another screening yesterday morning to see how we'd gotten on so far, these past eight weeks. This is what I had to show.

I've animated the majority of the first sequence, and a fair bit of the middle, but there's still a lot to do, including about half the shots, a lot of cleanup work, and I managed to misspell Russell Brown's name in the credits. My tutors say I won't have time to finish this unless I stop colouring, and choose a simpler aesthetic. But I've got a plan, I have two family members who have volunteered to do some of the colour work for me.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Making Progress

I've managed to get several shots done since the last update, this still is from one of them. My tutor warned me early on that he felt that shading the characters would be near impossible to get finished in time. Until I have everything else finished and coloured, the only things I will shade are the skeletons, and the sorcerer's emerald. The skeletons would be a totally flat colour otherwise, and the emerald needs to appear shiny and translucent.

He was unsure about my pipeline; that with photoshop I would have to render the colour separately from the line, use track mattes or clipping masks, and that rendering as png sequence wouldn't quite work. I did a little research. Since then I'm using a black solid under the line-art layer set to Luma Inverted.

The colour layer problem had me stumped for a while. I rendered as pngs, to test the theory. Black rectangles appeared behind every frame. Saving frames as pngs individually worked, but was time-consuming and I'd have to re-time it all in After Effects. Rendering it with a bright green background, and keying it out again was a pain. It worked, but was needlessly difficult to fine-tune the edges. I considered colouring in vectors to avoid the colour-blending of pixels, but decided instead to investigate the rendering panel. I found setting the Alpha Channel to Straight - Unmatted got rid of the black boxes. By that point I already had a few shots done, and had to fix them all to get rid of the mess of the green-screening. But that was a couple weeks back. I've got nine shots that I am happy with, and eight that are line-tested.

My tutor told me last week to have twenty finished by Thursday, to give me some breathing space in the next few weeks. Our deadline has been revealed as May first, and there's three weeks of Easter Holiday right before it, which will include my birthday and a trip to see distant relatives. I hope to get a few days worth of work done in that time.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Showreel 2013-2014

Music by Ok Go. I chose the track because I enjoy it, it's unusual, and it makes me think of the sorcerer in my film.

Production Bible

Click here to view my production bible.

Final Animatic

Here is my final animatic for hand-in submission. I am much happier with this edit, though I will need to put some polish on the sound effects when I come to make the finished film.

Sound Effects from iMovie, Hollywood Edge, and Soundideas.

Royalty-free music by Kevin MacLeod.

Aesthetic Tests

I tried a couple tests to see how my finished film would look.


I put my coloured characters into the frame, and added royalty-free textures to the background from CGTextures. I then added eye murals and wooden beams, and created a window with dark blurry corners to make it appear as if the scene is viewed through a lens. It adds a feeling of depth to what would otherwise be a very flat image.



Second Iteration Animatic

At this point my animatic was screened in the university cinema, which was rather daunting. However, it did mean I recieved a lot of feedback.

  •  Although I have replaced most of the drawings and cut down the length, I may have cut it too closely to the music for certain scenes to read correctly.
  • The scenes where the sorcerer is ready to kill him but is scared off or interrupted are too long. It seems he should have just killed him already. It needs to be clear he's scared off by the creatures in the walls, too.
  • I didn't leave enough time for people to enjoy the horror / comedy of removing a man's brain. Laughter at the screening was cut short because the plot was still moving.
  • It wasn't clear to some that the creatures from the walls were an entirely separate group- not on the sorcerer's side, just looking to deal with these intruders making all the noise and throwing caustic substances about. I need to have them attack the sorcerer.
  • The creatures weren't scary enough. They look too cheerful and dimwitted. I want them to look crazed and tortured.
My tutor wants me to create a longer introduction, a 'fanfare', and just a little more time to linger on the ending. He's worried that at the rate I have been making new drawings I may not finish my film. I agreed. I resolved to come into the studio more often, daily if possible, and attempt to work without distraction. I want to add a few clarifying scenes that take as little work as possible to animate. We're a fairly ambitious group, choosing to go it alone as generalists, so it is imperative that I can get things done efficiently if I am to finish this by the end of the academic year.

Royalty-free music by Kevin MacLeod.

Character Designs

Thief designs. I experimented a little, but deep down I knew that I wanted him to look as I had imagined him in the beginning. From that point, most of my experimentaion was in the art styles.

 I experimented a little more when searching for alternate designs for the sorcerer, seeing if might work better as a sorceress, an old mystic, a viking, or even a deranged clown. But again, after the initial sketches and script, none of these really felt appropriate. I decided he looked too washed out compared to the thief, so I used the hue and saturation sliders in photoshop to find a colour scheme I preffered.

I wanted my skeletons to appear more in keeping with the aesthetic I had esablished with my thief and sorcerer, so I settled on a design with thick wrists and ankles, to mimic the shape of the sorcerer's sleeves.
The shapeshifters were inspired by a bizzare creature dreamed up by H.P. Lovecraft, the shoggoth. I had many ideas for how to portray their default appearance; square, like the murals they are pretending to be; amorphous with multiple arms and eyes, as shoggoths are often depicted, or just outright birrare, inspired by the eponymous creatures from the board game The Awful Green Things From Outer Space.

Primary Animatic

This was drawn in tiny thumbnail sketches, and was created very quickly this way. However, my feedback says that at this stage some scenes went on for too long, and many of the drawings were nigh-unintelligible. Royalty-free music by Kevin MacLeod.

The Castle

I couldn't name the film Castle Sinister without having a decent castle to set the events in.
I came up with a rough sketch of a fairly simple design based on manor houses, castles from Scooby Doo episodes, and Castle Heterodyne from my favourite comic series, Girl Genius. The exterior is deeply forboding, with many turrets and windows, and murals of large eyes.

Character Designs

Here are the initial designs for the characters in my film. I wanted them to be in contrasting colours to emphasise the opposition between them, and help the viewer to recognise them at a glance.
 The sorcerer is mysterious and arcane, so he wears a robe, necklace, a stole, 'cool' hues. His hood casts his face in shadow, to make him seem secretive and disconnective. The 'stole' is the green scarf-like garment with the yellow squares, and they are usually worn by priets. I believe an evil medieval sorcerer would dress like a priest, to make himself seem to be a miracle worker, and perhaps attract a cult. The stole is, however, a fairly time-consuming garment to draw, so I might remove it in future designs.
 The thief wears warm hues as he is intended to be a warm, likeable character. He wears red trousers to contrast with the sorcerer's green, a tunic, and a scabbard. I wanted to make his face more distinctive, so I gave him a goatee and thick eyebrows. I didn't want him to be wearing armour, as he is intended to be a sneaksthief, and armour would weigh him down and make noise.
When designing the skeletons, I had in mind those animated by Ray Harryhausen in Jason and the Argonauts. They carried ornate shields, and had something of a comical manner in their movement. I gave the skeletons thick eyebrows because I think they look humourous, and to allow them to better perform expressions.


 I have included a link to the initial script here. Origionally it was under the working title Sorcery, but this dodn't seem exciting enough. I decided on Castle Sinister, as it is about sinister things happening in a castle, and 'sinister' is the latin word for left-handed, which my protagonist is.

Click on this text to view the script.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Welcome to Castle Sinister

Here I will be blogging the progress of the animated film I am creating for my final year in university.

Wish me luck.