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

 

 

 

BBC Three Big Field

Recently I had fun animating laser eyes and compositing exploding melons for BBC Three’s second series of Big Field. The latest series chops up dialogue from TV programmes and interprets them in a silly way with actors in a big field. The series is created by Darren Dutton and Jonny Roberts.

Big Field 2 - Judge Rinder

The sketch I worked on blends up Judge Rinder into a laser shooting, moron hating, tap pervert. You can watch the rest of the sketches on YouTube or check them out on the BBC iPlayer

 

 

 

Jingle Bad Man

It’s a bit late for anything Christmas related, but here’s something I forgot to share and is probably an accurate portrayal of what Santa’s up to at this very moment.

In the run up to Christmas I collaborated with Rumpus Animation on a corporate job. The animation and Pete‘s music was so banging that it would’ve been a shame not to edit it down. Here’s the result:

Designs/Director – Louis Hudson
Lead Animator – Joe Wood
Animators – Jake Harvey, Nina Noon
Music – Pete Styles

Here’s a couple of takeaway GIFs:

BBC Three Snapchat

Ian‘s work at BBC Digital Guerrillas recently involved a takeover of BBC Three‘s Snapchat channel. Ian and Rob Linsey made some nice documentaries for it and commissioned some ‘pick-me-up’s to go between them. Here’s Louis’ week-themed contributions:

BBC Three Snapchat: MondaysBBC Three Snapchat: HumpdayBBC Three Snapchat: Friday

GIFs for BBC

Since Ian started full time at BBC Digital Guerrillas I’ve had the chance to work with him, churning out animation on some different projects for BBC. Here’s a little round up of some of them.

BBC Shakespeare

BBC Shakespeare ran activities on Shakespeare’s 400th Death-iversary and they wanted some animations for their social media channels. I made a few Gilliam inspired animations that fitted the tone. The ‘Hamlet’ animation below was also projected at the BBC Mailbox studio. I also made a daft Birthday/Deathday Cake GIF that didn’t get used but I was quite pleased with.

BBC Shakespeare: HamletBBC Shakespeare: IdentityBBC Shakespeare: Infinite MonkeysBBC Shakespeare Birthday/Death

 

BBC Odd Taste

Digital Guerrilla’s did a week-long reactive comedy takeover of BBC Taster. It was a really interesting project that lumped together comedians, developers, illustrators, photoshoppers and animators into virtual writers’ rooms on Slack and Google Hangout. Here’s a couple of things I made for Jimi Hendrix’s birthday and Wear Your Band T-Shirt To Work Day.

Jimi Hendrix Birthday

Wear Your T-shirt To Work Day

 

BBC Three Launch Vines

As BBC Three moved online I was asked to make a couple of mashups of their launch video for use on Vine. They got a nice reaction but weren’t used in the end. I suppose Greg Davies mucking about the apes from 2001 is a bit of stretch for the younger demographic.