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Gorillabot – I’m Just a Robot

Over the last few months I’ve been helping out on Craig Bush‘s music video I’m Just a Robot for the band Gorillabot.

We both saw them for the first time at the launch of their EP Malware. This photo of the aftermath gives a flavour for the gig. It was like a demented kid’s party. The energy, comedy, mania, ideas and colours, made us want to make music videos for them straight away.  

For Craig’s video he wanted to reproduce the feeling and aesthetic of that live performance, and use it tell one of the video’s stories as densely as possible. We both have a love of absurd humour and heightened reality, so it was also a good opportunity to push Gorillabot’s silliness to a new level.

So began weeks of Craig working with Art Director, Amy Holden, to fill up Craig’s house with a series of cardboard sets and props. At the same time I was building my own bridge to wear for a star cameo.

After a lot of pre-production, Craig was ready to move everything into Yamination Studios to prepare rigging, set dressing and rehersals.

 

 

The shoot was loads of fun, or at least from what I saw it was. I spent most of the day alternating between wearing a globe and a bridge on my head. We also had a great cast of friends and regular collaborators filling out the video, so a huge thanks to them for dedicating their time. Similarly to all of the crew who helped everything run smoothly. I’m particularly impressed with how DP Paul McHale, and assistants Lewis Morgan and Liam Morgan worked together to capture everything and somehow keep it all in focus.

After that, it was down to the long hard post-production slog. While there are a lot of practical effects in the film, we wanted to digitally enhance them past what is physically possible in order to pull the rug from under the audience so that they felt like anything could happen. My way of thinking about the visuals in this film is that Benbot believes he’s a robot and that this whole scenario is a fantasy acting out in his mind in a basement somewhere. It’s childlike with sinister undertones. 

Another role of the visual effects was to create a sense that the film was happening in one take. A lot of time was spent creating transitions that flowed well while trying not too hard to completely hide them. I’ve seen a lot of videos where they hide cuts perfectly, but as soon a seam appears it feels like you’ve seen behind the magic trick and it’s a little disappointing. I wanted to do a good job hiding cuts but I was more interested in making the audience want to go with the flow over seamless trickery. 

Part of that was adding elements of interest in the more dramatic edit points. Loads of dust and smoke to make the scene more chaotic. Also the key to a good transition in these cases was to use elements before and after the two cuts so that it’s not totally clear what is being cut to and from.

Most of the transitions were largely a case of making the camera flow nicely. All it takes is for a slight camera jitter, then your eye catches it and you’re taken out of the flow.

As well as creating things that weren’t possible in real life I wanted to make the situation look like a health and safety nightmare. The whole film is about Benbot innocently trying to have fun but causing death and destruction without realising. Also, in the mid-point of any long music video it’s good to have lots of explosions and fire to keep the audience going.

I'm Just A Robot Lasers

It wasn’t planned for the solo to have extra sparks, but the reaction of the actors to Benbot lighting his one small sparkler was great and I wanted to make it look like they were in genuine danger. 

There were more subtle elements that were added to help the flow. On the day some of the call and response sections from the crowd didn’t quite register visually. So I went into my vault of green screened characters from Gregory Is A Dancer and laid them into scene. Craig even managed to get his director cameo in the process. A lot of attention also went into the grading. We shot on RAW so I was able to correct the lighting frame by frame to make sure everybody was well exposed. The set ups were so quick moving and extreme that we couldn’t have planned to have even lighting everywhere so it was nice to have that element of control.

The last step was adding a ton of reactive lighting to create the sense of a live gig. The nature of the shoot meant we mostly had practical Kinoflow lights so it was nice to bring those to life at the end.

It was a really fun project to collaborate on and I’m looking forward to the next Gorillabot video. And of course I’m now available for any grumpy bridge character work going.

 

Director – Craig Bush

Producer – Craig Bush and Louis Hudson

DP – Paul McHale

Art Director – Amy Holden

Editors – Louis Hudson & Craig Bush

VFX – Louis Hudson

 

BAAwards Public Choice Screenings 2018

On 5th, 6th and 7th Feb, the British Animation Awards Public Choice Award voting screenings are coming back to The Mockingbird Theatre in Birmingham’s Custard Factory.

Three different hour long programmes will take place over three evenings, where you can help decide who should win.

The BAAs take place every two years, which means there’s a packed selection of award-winning, festival laurel grabbing shorts and music videos to choose from. The screenings are happening nationwide, so if you’re not local you can find your nearest screening on the BAA website.

Food and drink is also available at the bar, so come along to meet other animators, filmmakers and fellow film lovers.

Tickets are £3, which can be bought at mockingbirdcinema.com

The screenings have been organised by us, Dice Productions, with support from Flatpack Projects.

Here’s what’s in store in the different programmes:

 

Monday 5th February 8.30pm – Programme 1

Tickets available on The Mockingbird Theatre website.

  • Limoeiro/Lemon Tree | Joana Silva | RCA | 04:40
  • Epic Fail | Greg Barth | Blink Ink | 05:30
  • Maybe It’s Me | Dimitris Simou | Independent | 06:00
  • Inner House | Yuriko Ogawa | Royal College of Art | 06:40
  • A Love Story | Anushka Naanayakkara | NFTS | 10:00
  • Matchstick Zombies | Jake Blakestone | UCLAN | 03:00
  • Yours Faithfully, Edna Welthorpe (Mrs) | Chris Shepherd | Polkadot | 05:15
  • The Grey Hound | Josh Saunders | RCA | 04:50
  • Tete a Tete | Natasha Tonkin | NFTS | 08:00
  • 3 Cane Whale: Eggardon Hill | Mark Taylor, Duncan Fraser & Paul Hill | 2:45
  • Sparks: Edith Piaf (Said it Better Than Me) | Joseph Wallace | Cardel for BMG | 3:45
  • Reel of Fortune | Jack Grace | The Arts University at Bournemouth | 04:30
  • Bump Classique | Ben Wheele | Ben Wheele Studio | 03:40

 

Tuesday 6th February 8.30pm – Programme 2

Tickets available on The Mockingbird Theatre website.

  • G-AAAH | Elizabeth Hobbs | Independent | 01:25
  • Spindrift | Selina Wagner | Blobina Animations | 11:40
  • Heist | Ed Leicester | UWE, Bristol | 02:15
  • Mamoon | Ben Steer | Blue-Zoo Productions | 06:30
  • The Ship | Natasha Price | Calling The Shots | 03:10
  • Fishwitch | Adrienne Dowling | NFTS | 09:00
  • A Little Grey | Steve Smith & Simon Hewitt | Beakus | 05:20
  • Adrift | Roxana Bentu | RCA | 04:50
  • Tough | Jennifer Zheng | Kingston University | 04:50
  • James: Dear John | Peter Vacz | Picasso Pictures for BMG | 04:10
  • Pentakill: Mortal Reminder | Pete Candeland | Friends Electric | 04:40
  • Poles Apart | Paloma Baeza | NFTS | 12:00

 

Wednesday 7th February 8.30pm – Programme 3

Tickets available on The Mockingbird Theatre website.

  • Have Heart | Will Anderson | wanderson.co.uk | 12:10
  • Shhh | Alice Boutell | 02:20
  • The Full Story | Daisy Jacobs & Christopher Wilder | Life-Size Film | 07:30
  • Attraction | Emily Scaife | RCA | 04:30
  • Johnno’s Dead | Chris Shepherd | Polkadot Films 8:30
  • Looper: Farfisa Song | Iain Gardner | Animation Garden for Mute Records | 03:10
  • Andreya Triana: Branches of Life | Katerina Athanasopoulou | 04:15
  • Katie Melua: Perfect World | Karni and Saul | Sulkybunny for BMG | 04:25
  • Once Upon A Blue Moon | Steve Boot | 03:30
  • To Build A Fire | Fx Goby | Nexus Productions | 13:00

 

Dots and Loops Playlist

Photo by Amy Smart

Thanks to everybody who came to our Dots and Loops night, and thanks to Flatpack for inviting us to do it. It was a lot of fun for us to recap on our careers so far. Our choice of films were quite revealing in the end, giving us a nice perspective for ourselves about where we are so far and what we’d like to create in the future.

It was nice to see other people get a kick out of the event too. Ashleigh Goodwin at Birmingham Review did a nice write up of the evening. We’ve become very used to the concept of short form film screenings, so it’s surprising when it proves an education to somebody new. I hope it has people searching out similar events. You can read the review HERE.

If you want to relive the night. Get a pint, sit in a hard chair, and turn the lights off while watching these films. Enjoy:

 

The first section focused on our film festival favourites and influences, with Message in A Bottle and Man In A Cat providing our first foot holds into the filmmaking and comedy community.

 

The second section was a light hearted, Christmas sprinkled affair, with a focus on how much effort goes into crafting comedy.

 

In the third act, we showed some films that reminded us of simpler times. For an evening that felt like a throwback to us hosting Popcorn Comedy it was nice to dig out some favourites from those days when everybody seemed to be having a go at making shortform comedy on YouTube.

Cigarette Break

It’s becoming a tradition for us to have a Christmassy collaboration with Pete Styles. This year he’s brought some life to an old GIF Ross Butter and I made for Skwigly. Merry Christmas, and may you get as much quality time with your loved ones as Santa and Rudolf are getting.

Dots and Loops

After a false start with our Dots and Loops night we are now rescheduled… FOR CHRISTMAS! December 19th at the Rose Villa Tavern. Be there or be at another Christmas function you were booked in for months ago.

We’ll be chatting to Flatpack‘s Sam Groves about our films, influences, and grubby Christmas animations.

Here’s the event page: http://flatpackfestival.org.uk/event/rescheduled-dots-loops-5-with-louis-hudson-ian-ravenscroft/

PE Hub Shortlisted at Manchester Animation Festival

I’m very pleased to say that the Character Design I did for The PE Hub has been shortlisted for an award at Manchester Animation Festival!

Hopefully see you there if you’re going.

The PE Hub

Animation – Louis Hudson & Nina Parker Noon
Voiceover – Suzy Fawke
Sound Design – Pete Styles

Above is one in a series of educational videos I made for an interesting company called The PE Hub who help schools improve their Physical Education by providing lesson plans. As part of their recent rebrand I was asked to create characters and make a short series of animations that break down the steps of some skills. You can see the rest of the videos on VIMEO.

It was an interesting brief that balanced colourful, fun, appealing characters that weren’t too kiddy and had the proportions to perform realistic human action.

The sound and voiceover also played into that. I asked Pete Styles to rummage about in his bag of audio magic to create some non-realistic sounds that emphasised each stage of the skills in a way that was pleasant to listen to repeatedly. He accompanied that with a simple upbeat score that left plenty of space for the sound effects. Suzy Fawke also gave a delivery that hit the enthusiastic PE teacher mark perfectly. 

 
The films required strong character animation to depict what was happening at each stage of the skill. I’m definitely not a gymnast so thankfully The PE Hub had filmed some reference footage.

These videos were then broken down to form the basis of the movement. It’s interesting that when rotoscoping footage the resulting animation tends to look a little stiff and weightless. This is partly due to the fact that it’s difficult to fully capture poses from live footage AND make it flow from frame to frame. However, the main problem is that animation is usually more exaggerated and precise than real life. Real life captured perfectly in drawings oddly feels a little lifeless.

For my intern, Nina, it was a great exercise in learning from, and then improving, real life. I’d recommend these next steps to anybody starting out in character animation.

To start, we went through each frame of the footage studying where weight was being distributed to where, drawing motion graphs, studying where things were coming from and where they were going to, and how that informed motion blur and secondary movement of the clothes. There were situations where the performer landed a little awkwardly, so we were then able to break down what his animated twin could do to land as he should.

Next, we set the live action to 12.5fps, the same frame rate as the final animation, and rotoscoped it. We then critiqued it as a first animation pass. First any obvious bugs could be knocked out because there’s a real person with muscles and foreshortening to reference. But then the interesting stuff happens. The performance still feels like it needs punching up: pushing poses; contrast between fast and slow; somehow easing in and out was slightly off; generally finding moments to add a bit of *snap*. The difference between 25 and 12.5fps also requires a few animation tricks to fill in the gaps between the frames. Smears (or motion blur), the way cloth is dragging/bellows, and anticipation/follow through, give clues to where the missing frame was or is coming.

NOW Nina was ready to animate on model. A nice trick I developed was to have the model drawn on a plastic sheet so it could be drawn through onto the Cintiq. Getting to know a new character is a nightmare so anything that helps is always welcome. It’s a variation on how it’s done the traditional way, and it was nice to have a method that was actually easier than a digital one.

After repeating that process 3-4 times Nina was knocking it out of the park.

On a side note to interning, I tried an approach I hadn’t done before with Nina. I don’t take on many interns, so I treated it much more as a paid 4 week apprenticeship. Nina did 4 days working on this project, and 1 day working on her own personal development. That could be anything she wanted, whether it was software-based, building a website, filmmaking skills, or professional practise. Considering she was finishing her graduation film we decided to go through what she could do to make it stronger and develop the skills needed to do that.

I think this approach really worked for both of us. It created a buzz in the studio and a focus on the PE Hub work. It was also a chance to invest in an intern that would hopefully have a longer term impact. There’s always a point in an animated project where it essentially becomes creative admin. This method kept the whole process fun AND we finished way ahead of schedule, which meant Nina got to do even more on her film. I recommend it if you ever work with internships. 

Here’s some of the other films we made which Nina did most of the grunt work on:

Music Theatre Wales

I recently did a quick nice job for Music Theatre Wales thanks to my producer pal Joseph Bell (aka Side Burn Panda). The brief was pretty straight forward and Joe had already mocked up a storyboard, so it was a chance to jazz up the photographs I was provided with some 3D trickery. 

The score that John Hardy Music created for it really brings the video to life. Artistic Director, Michael McCarthy did a nice write up about it here: http://musictheatre.wales/news/embracing-digital-with-another-mtw-commission

It was also nice adding a bit of life to this wrench to promote their opera, The Golden Dragon.

Royal British Legion – Passchendaele 100

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Battle Of Passchendaele several films were made by Dan Snow‘s production company Ballista Media for The Royal British Legion. These included a series of 360 videos that I was asked to explore using archive footage and interviews with soldiers who fought in the battle.

Over The Top‘ tries to capture the feeling of that day. The mud, the rain, the tension, and the realities of people who knew each other struggling through the carnage. My main aim was to represent what the interviewees were describing in a respectful, but powerful way.

The images and archive film used were all produced throughout WWI, so the film represents the situation with artistic license in a way that an accurate recreation would struggle to do. The only visually factual elements are the horizon and the handwritten landmark references. This and the arc of the Sun anchor the imagery together. The light levels were animated to represent heart pounding and erratic gun fire. Video footage with camera moves were stabilised so that their content was fixed in the 360 space to make them feel more real – the panning action of the camera now acting as a view finder to the scenes. 

Having never made a 360 film before, I was very conscious about keeping the format relevant. The immersive nature of wearing a headset is powerful but as a viewer I still like to know where I’m supposed to look, while also benefitting from the ability to wander. In this case, the benefit of 360 is the surrounding sense of danger. During the calmer moments there’s more time to look about. During the fighting, the atmosphere is more claustrophobic. Keeping the point of focus generally in the one half of the space also made sense in relation to the forward direction of trench warfare.

It was a privilege to be asked to work on this and I’m glad to hear it’s got a good response from the Royal British Legion. While compositing it all was dark at times, it’s almost impossible to relate to what these people lived through.

 

Here’s two Chelsea Pensioners taking in the film at the Passchendaele 100 launch. Image by The Royal British Legion.

Visual Editing, Design and Composting by Louis Hudson
Sound Design by Pete Styles
Produced by Joseph Bell

Veterans Interviewed: James Dorrofield Wade, Ulrick Bernard Burke, Charles Heaton, Bert Fearns, 
Veteran interviews provided by the Imperial War Museum
Archive film provided by Critical Past
Images courtesy of the Robery Hunt Collection, Australian War Memorial, and National Library Of Scotland

A Ballista Media production.

The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas – Northern Ballet

Here’s a thing I co-directed with Craig Bush, as part of a series of videos promoting Northern Ballet‘s production of The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas. Craig decided it would be interesting to pair John Boyne‘s voice with animation to get across the themes discussed in the film. After discussing the beats of the interview, I started sifting through some very sombre reference material.

The visuals took their cue from Mark Bailey’s costume designs, so I went about playing with Kyle Webster‘s watercolour and pencil brushes to find a style that suited. I’m continually impressed with how life like an effect you can get from his brushes. However, it’s still pretty essential to be familiar with how to handle the real thing. 

It was then a constant balancing act of using some visual drama, and treating the subject matter with the respect it deserved. The comping, reveals, ink bleeds, and camera work were done in After Effects. I was pretty pleased with how ink runs turned out. The ballet performance was rotoscoped in Photoshop, using its increasingly versatile video/animation tools. I hope they continue to build on them. 

Directed by Craig Bush & Louis Hudson
Animated by Louis Hudson
Music composed by Gary Yershon
Produced by Joseph Bell