SL | Animation References: Tex Avery and Hiroyuki Imaishi

Doing the presentation for the final hand in at the moment, I realized how much I haven’t shared in the last months about my research, inspiration and references. It’s sad but sometimes it’s a bit hard to post something in the blog, as I usually take extra care in writing everything properly and I end up not finding the time to do it. So I guess I should have written without putting too much effort in it, but more. A bit late to think about it, well done!

Anyway, I’d like to share the animation references I used in the development of Sounds Like. In terms of exaggeration of facial expressions and body language, one of the best animation director from the golden age of American animation is Tex Avery. He worked a lot with the Warner Brothers’ Looney Tunes characters, who are known already for those features. But one of the movies I was particularly inspired by is his “Little Rural Riding Hood”, where the expressions of the country wolf were just amazing.

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The growing eyes are a common element in a lot of cartoons of the time, this is just an example. But I really like how he pushed the exaggeration even further, dismembering the body of the town wolf at the end:

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It inspired me to push my animation and accentuate the action. It is something I want to explore more after this project.

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Another reference is the Japanese anime director Hiroyuki Imaishi. Probably this name wouldn’t sound familiar to anyone not interested in anime but I really admire his work, as it is extremely crazy and explosive. The pace of his animation is always very fast, with characters doing a lot of things in a short amount of time. He worked at GAINAX (best known for Neon Genesis Evangelion) as an animation director for some TV-series as His and Her Circumstances, Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi, FLCL and many more. He co-founded the animation studio Trigger in 2011, becoming director on Kill La Kill.

This kind of animation was very inspiring for the pace in my video, as the character is moving all the time and his actions are quite fast.

SL | Research on Music and Animation

I’ve never finished this post about the research on animation and music for Sounds Like, my graduation project. It’s very late now, but it’s worth sharing it anyways.

I started researching about the work of European abstract artists and film makers from the 1920s and up until the 30s and 40s.
In Germany, artists like Oskar Fishinger or Walter Ruttmann experimented a lot on the theme of moving images and shapes according to music and melodies. They drew simple geometrical shapes directly on film, to create abstract animations coordinated to classical music. Even in these early experiments that served as a base on more complex studies, you have a feeling of a visual rhythm and beats. An example is one of Walter Ruttman’s “Opus” series video:

It’s impressive how these artists perfectly synchronized the animation with the music even at an experimental stage. In the 30s, Oscar Fischinger experimented with more elaborated shapes, following more the changes of beats and rhythm in the music. His “Studies” series of work reflect his interest in motion and music:

His “Allegretto” particularly inspired me, for the shapes and the animation in it. I admire the style: simple and geometrical but extremely effective. In this other example, “An Optical Poem”, cut-out circles of different colours and sizes appear on the screen at a different times, coordinated with Frans Liszt’s “2nd Hungarian Rhapsody”:

Norman McLaren is another great example of visual artist. His approach was a bit different though, as he experimented more with sounds than music. One of his first works in visual art is “Dots”, which impressed me a lot and inspired me in the making of the project:

In all these examples I was impressed by the power of colour by itself and combined with others, as well as the strength of simple geometry when animated in an interesting way. Abstract moving shapes related to music or sound generate a synaesthetic experience, pleasant for both the maker and the audience. It was a good starting point for the beginning sequence and to represent the sound shapes throughout my animation.

SL | Pub scene

Just a quick update on that pub scene I’ve been working on for a while and that has finally come to an end..

In this scene I wanted to portray the multicultural aspect of the big city. It’s a theme I was always interested in and it was one of the earliest scenes I developed for this project. The opportunity to know more about different cultures and countries is right at hand living in a metropolis and it can be as exciting as confusing, if it happens too quickly.
As my project explores the relationship between sound and the big city, I decided to express the multiculturalism in its spoken aspect: language.
In fact, there are four characters speaking different languages at the same time in a pub, while the main character sits in the middle of this tower of Babel, looking quite confused. He tries to understand what the people around him are talking about but the language barrier and the speed of the conversations overwhelm him.

The other characters also represent the frenzy and stress of the big city, as they talk to each other and suddenly grow bigger releasing their emotions (anger, excitement, stress, depression) on top of the main character and creating a spiral of voices and chaos.

On the technical side: I recorded the voices first to have a reference for the lip synch and then mixed them to fit with the timing in my animation. I have to thank 5 of my classmates: Silvia, Tank, Frank, Callie and Fiona, and my flatmate Gaurang for helping me in this! I asked for something a bit challenging, as I didn’t want them to say proper words or sentences, but to have just a feeling of the language they are speaking. I think the final result will be better than what I have at the moment, as I will ask the sound designer to add some effects on the voices to make them not recognizable.

The animation bit was very fun actually, having to animate four characters with different personalities: the angry Chinese guy yelling at the phone, the gossip Spanish lady with a crazy laugh, the bitter drunk Irish guy and the hurried Indian. And it was a break from having to animate the same character all the time! Well, he is there of course, but for once not the main attraction.

Here is the pub scene as it is at the moment, and here are some gifs I did of the four characters:

Sounds Like | Progress

I haven’t updated the blog in a long time.. But this is where I am at with my graduation project, which has a (provisional) title now: “Sounds Like”.

The animation is almost done, but I still need to deal with some scenes.
I got in touch with another Royal College of Music student who will work on the sound design. I think the first part of the video needs to be more chaotic and noisy, so probably ambient sounds and stronger effects would be needed.

Plus, I recorded some voices for the pub scene, where people speak different languages. And I tried to do some lip synch with it, but it’s quite hard to tell because all the characters are talking at the same time. Anyway it’s fine because I wanted to convey a general feeling of confusion and chaos.
It’s quite demanding as a scene because there are five characters moving at the same time. There’s one person, plus the main character, left to be animated, but it’s getting there..

Hopefully I will have everything fully animated for next week’s rough cut critique! And then it will be a matter of cleaning things up, painting every frame, animate the different sound shapes and other elements…… Still a lot of work to do!!

SL | New animatic

Here’s the new animatic for my graduation project. I made some changes in terms of colour palette, camera movements, designs and poses of the character.
The contrast between the city and the music world is now clearer thanks to the different colour scheme: cold versus warm colours. On one hand I’ve chosen blue and grey, in all their shades, to give the city a distant and miserable feeling; on the other hand, the yellows, reds and oranges will brighten up the imaginary world.
I tried to avoid the monotony of the camera, which simply follows the character in one direction, by adding two zooms in and more transitions. I wanted to focus the attention in two scenes, when the character approaches sound in a pleasant way. The close ups are intended to give an intimate look at his feelings.
After some research in abstract animation, which I will examine in another post, I designed some more shapes and geometrical figures that will appear mainly in the background.
As for the animation itself, I drew a lot more key frames in the last scenes and changed some poses throughout the video.

Open City | Final

The final version of the video I worked on last term, called “Open City”, for Shenzhen Urbanism and Architecture Biennale is online! I’m so glad of the final result, I think we did a very good job as a team and I learnt lots of different things I’m sure they’re going to be helpful in future projects 🙂



SL | Further ideas and animatic

After receiving some feedbacks on my initial idea and story from tutor and classmates, I wasn’t sure I was going to the right direction. I wanted to stress more the importance of the sounds and noises in the story, and I felt with the delivery guy it wasn’t really working.

I reviewed some initial sketches I did in December thinking about the character and I remembered I had the idea of a clumsy boy with big ears.


I resumed the idea and developed more with Julie, and we came up with a completely different story that makes more sense and that I like!

The main character is a young man with big ears that make him oversensitive to sound and noise. He has this passion for music but doesn’t really know how to deal with it or to convey it. Living in a big city, he has lots of misadventures related to the noise and the chaos. When he comes back home and everything is quiet, he understands his own talent, being able to create melodies and music out of the sounds he hears in the house. He is finally ready to face the big city again, but this time he conducts the noises in the city, instead of being overpowered by them.

Compared to the previous idea, I like the fact that it’s much more related to music and that the character can overcome the things that scared him before, thanks to the realization of his own strengths.

Here’s a little character design I did for this new story, inspired by the previous one but made simpler.


And here’s the animatic (without audio):

I also tried to put some music and sound effects in the very beginning, playing around with royalty free music. Here’s the test:

I’m in contact with Royal College of Music student Barbara De Biasi, who’s having wonderful ideas for the music in my video. I’m sure this is going to be a very productive and amazing collaboration as well 😀

SL | First ideas

First 2014 post!

I’ve been developing my graduation project a lot since I last updated the blog, in terms of both story and visuals.

As I said in a previous post, I’ve been thinking a lot about making a video related to the sounds and the noise in a big city, but it was a bit hard to come up with an idea of a story.
I started collaborating with MA Dramatic Writing student Julie Zheng for the development of my ideas and she’s been very helpful. I was able to finally find a structure to the story and she made me think in depth about the character and the theme.
The character design and story telling workshops we had helped me figuring out both the style I want to develop for this project and the features of the main character.

At first we came up with this idea of a clumsy young man moving to a big city and working as a food delivery guy. He desperately wants to fit in this new and chaotic reality, but he impacts with a lot of difficulties and misadventures. At the end he realizes he needs to be himself and finally refuses the big city model he was idealizing and leaves on a trip in nature.

Here are the character design and some concept art I did for this first idea:

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I’m not going for this style and story anymore, but I thought I’d share it anyway as part of the process I’m going through in the development of the project.