Thursday, 23 July 2009

Press feature & other news

From 10th-12th July 2009 Scotland's biggest music festival, T In The Park, took place in my hometown. For this event Mercedes-Benz UK supplied the local police force, Tayside Police, with a little Smart Fortwo police car to test around the festival site.
Official photographs of the highly popular little police car were taken prior to the big weekend, and I was asked to digitally enhance a selection of those photos for a nationwide press release by Mercedes-Benz UK.

The heading photograph (above) is the one used for the Mercedes press release, which has been featured in The Herald newspaper and is now spreading across the Internet. I had spent all of the Sunday evening during the music festival working at home on 10 of the official photos while The Killers headline set live on BBC Scotland blasted out from our surround sound system, yet this is the only photo that has been officially released.

Since T In The Park almost 2 weeks ago, the little Smart police car has now begun 'touring' around Scotland on official police duties with 4 of Scotland's forces, so it could be in a town near you one of these days (if you're in central Scotland)!

Today I was responsible for escorting the police Smart demonstrator across the central belt from Lothian & Borders Police HQ to Strathclyde Police HQ. Asides from 'unintentionally' breaking into the Lothian & Borders HQ, I also got to watch everyones pleasantly surprised reactions to the Smart car as we spent an hour scooting between destinations.
During an unplanned stop-off at the Mercedes-Benz Glasgow showroom, all their customers and employees (including the Mercedes mechanics working on much more sporty/luxurious/expensive models like the SL) hastily broke away from their engagements to see the quirky police car up close... (I don't think I've ever seen so many camera phones at one time!)

Saying as the environmentally-friendly Smart Fortwo police vehicle has been photographed so much, and is now making it's way around several towns in Scotland (therefore likely to cause its picture to spread across mobile phones and social networking sites like a cyber swine flu), I've decided to release some of the other T In The Park photos that I digitally enhanced for Mercedes.

On the way home I got to see Ibrox stadium (the home of Rangers Football Club) for my first time ever. (NOTE: I'm not a Rangers supporter, but I've always wanted to see their historic stadium).
Many of my close childhood friends passionately support Rangers, and one family whom I have been friends with for many years have always had a large picture of the Ibrox main entrance hanging in their home. That image of the stadium with its grand Sandstone masonry and large blue iron gates has always actively held a place in my mind, so I'm happy that I finally got to drive along the road outside the main entrance.
I'm perhaps slightly disappointed that I never got a better view of the stadium, and that it looked a lot smaller in person than the pictures in my mind led me to believe for all those years, but the historic architecture of Ibrox has certainly got a strong characteristic that I really admire and strongly regret about not being in most other football stadiums today...
(I'll save an analysis about the architecture of football stadiums for another day).

Monday, 13 July 2009

Theme Parks: How Disney beat the Fleischer Bros

Once upon a time, in a land far far away, worked two giant companies of the Animation industry...

In one corner [California] we had Walt Disney with his Seven Dwarves, multiplane camera, and a talking mouse that was best friends with an orange dog...
From uncertain beginnings in Kansas City, to driving an ambulance for the Red Cross during WW1, and receiving his first (of 26) Academy Award(s) in 1931 for the creation of Mickey Mouse, Walt Disney's animation company is still the best known animation company in the world. Even today, in the age of CGI, many of Disney's classic films remain as inspiring and as popular as ever with young and old audiences alike, despite most of his best known films being over 50 years old (Snow White, 1937; Pinocchio, 1940; Dumbo, 1941, Bambi, 1942, Peter Pan, 1953; The Lady & The Tramp, 1959...)

In the other corner [Miami] we have the Fleischer Brothers with their Betty Boop, rotoscope technique, and a Klown who came Out Of The Inkwell...
The Fleischer's are responsible for many innovations regarding the production process of animation, particularly the rotoscope technique, and the Stereoptical Process.
Even though they produced several memorable cartoon series' including Betty Boop, Superman, and Popeye; when it came to feature films, the Fleischer Brothers tended to rely upon poor imitations of the Disney style to stand a shot at gaining commercial success anywhere near the equivalent of the Disney Studios. This imitation is evident in Gulliver's Travels (1939), which was the first animated feature film from an American company other than Disney... Although their debut feature film was a commercial success, their second feature (Mr Bug Goes To Town / Hoppity Goes To Town) was badly received at the box office and when combined with internal problems and a failing business model, the Fleischer Studios gradually fell apart. Today their name is almost unheard of amongst general audiences (which I think is a real shame considering their important technical innovations and personal artistic style).

But on with the story:
Walt Disney opened his first theme park in California during the summer of 1955, and similar Disney theme parks have since opened around the world (in Florida, Tokyo, Paris, and Hong Kong). The theme parks are best symbolised by Cinderella's castle, which appears in the Disney logo; however theme parks are where I [jokingly] think that the Fleischer Brothers became commercial failures...

While the Disney theme parks are massive cities that can take several days to fully explore (hence requiring visitors to buy more tickets, which earns Disney more money); the Fleischer's theme park (if the drawing below is to be believed) is WAY too small for kids or even human dwarves to fit into [note the imitation Cinderella castle]...
How could Max Fleischer, a man responsible for so many technical achievements, have drawn the plans for his first theme park at such a wrong scale?

The lesson to learn:
If you're going to build a theme park to expand your animation company, make sure it's big enough for your visitors to enter!

Monday, 6 July 2009

Synesthesia experiment hailed by iotaCenter

An experimental/abstract animation that I made in February 2008 for part of my 3rd Year Animation course at ECA has been noticed by the iotaCenter on Vimeo, and has been added to their Experimental Animation album on the site.

The iotaCenter is "a public benefit arts organization devoted to Abstract Cinema and Visual Music". They have an extensive collection of writings, original research, (and even DVDs for sale); which I found useful for researching some of my final year dissertation. Their description for the Experimental Animation album that recognises my video on Vimeo reads:
"iotaCenter is interested in both new and classic works being created and uploaded to Vimeo. Here we'll keep a list of those works we found to be unique".

My featured work [embedded below] is a 19 second experimental animation called Synesthesia Animated, which utilises an audio clip of the song Drive (Orchestral Live Version) by Incubus from the album Make Yourself: Tour Edition.

The animation sequence was composed over 2 weeks to synchronise with (and visually interpret) the elements of the audiotrack as I heard them.
The visuals are made from about 80 abstract watercolour paintings on 4" pieces of card, using a technique similar to cameraless animation - where I created each frame of animation without tracing the layout from the previous frame.
This technique causes the visuals to have a looseness that would be missing if the frames were traced, while the watercolours further enhance the vibrancy of the animation, which I think nicely reflects the audio.

Surprisingly, as of June 2009, there are only 5 videos in the album, but it is very nice to get recognised by the iotaCenter for creating a 'unique' piece of work...
I'd like to extend my gratitude to Murray Dalgleish for lending me the Tour Edition album, and to Alison Cross for lending me the Make Yourself album (as well as the S.C.I.E.N.C.E album) for the same project a week earlier than Murray.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Super cool Acura RDX animated advert

I found a super cool advert a few nights ago, which is like 'Paint on Glass animation meets Graffiti versus greenscreen' but created on a massive scale and without modern/digital processes...

It's a recent American 30 second advert called Wall Art (directed by Chris Hopewell and Ben Foley of Collision Films) for the Acura [known as Honda in the UK] RDX vehicle.

Basically, they've got an RDX inside a large studio, and they filmed the static vehicle with a stopmotion technique while a sequence of rotoscoped graffiti-style illustrations get painted all around (and even on) the car frame-by-frame. The graffiti-style illustrations are painted onto a 100 foot x 40 foot wall, and are basically massive frames of animation created with a process that recalls the wall painted animations of BLU such as MUTO. The end result is that the advert gives the impression that the vehicle is driving through a three-dimensional city painting, when in reality the vehicle had never moved. It is a more artistic version of the pan-European Ford Kinetic Design advert that is currently on TV on a regular basis.
While the Ford advert is utilising relatively modern techniques and visual effects to create a very similar illusion, this whole Acura advert is created with traditional stopmotion animation techniques using a real vehicle, 450 gallons of paint for the 100x40 foot frames of animation, and 240 hours of shooting over 10 days (which means that they were shooting 24 hours a day for the whole production process)!

Why don't we get highly creative/artistic adverts like this in the UK?

Acura RDX advert:
Behind the scenes video:
Originally discovered at:

Ford Kinetic Design advert:
Behind the scenes video:

Friday, 3 July 2009

Which Student Are You? (Humorous stereotypes by Chuck Dillon)

Twas our graduation ceremony this afternoon, but let's not dwell on that Harry Potter-esque clap happy torture land...

This evening I uncovered a blog post called Which Student Are You? with illustrations about art student stereotypes at Chuck Dillon's blog).
It is a series of illustrations based upon Dillon's observations from a 10 year teaching career at the Hussain School of Art in Philadelphia, and although several of the stereotypes are strongly based on American culture, I found that much of the stereotypes still apply to the students that I've encountered in Britain; so in my opinion it is worth publicizing here...

If the link doesn't work, the address to that specific blogpost is: