Process: Animatic

At parts during in the creation of the animatic I found it was easier to create rough drafts of the more complex animation sequences.

The scene in which one of the characters clings to his friends leg as he is dragged along the floor was particularly challenging, as it involved both a walk cycle and a full body animation of the character clinging on. I used a close up, low down camera angle to reveal the characters worried expression which added another area of difficulty to the animation. This meant I had to compromise on the shading that featured so prominently in the rest of the animation, and though I’m happy with how this shot turned out, I think the drop in consistency had a negative effect.

It’s this consistency of style that is so important in immersing the viewer in the animation. As film maker and animator David O’Reilly writes in his short essay ‘Basic Animation Aesthetics’ – ‘Attention to aesthetics gains an audiences trust, makes them forget they are watching a film and by extension feel any emotion you can think of.’1 This is the reason the highly detailed films of Wes Anderson are so immersive.

I believe this translates to animation on a much smaller scale also. It is for this reason that I intended to draw each line with the same stroke width, and use the same colour scheme throughout. However at various points I’ve betrayed this rule and I think this too had a negative effect on the animation.


Process: Animatic

After finalising the storyboard I created an animatic. I was happy with style and excited to get started so I think I may have rushed the animatic, not realising I was creating the blueprint for the finished film. However, this was my first time creating an animatic.

It was whilst working on the animatic that I began to consider the sound design of the finished piece, I neglected to leave myself enough time to fully experiment and develop the soundscape of the film but I think I was still inventive in my use of sound effects. I took influence from the independent video game ‘Super Meat Boy’ whilst designing the sounds of the characters, in which the main character is a vulnerable skinless blob made from meat. As the character bounces round the platforms of the game he squishes and squelches in the same way real meat would.

I intended to make my characters sound soft and fleshy in the same way with my sound design in the hope that they may become more tangible, and seem vulnerable as if without their armour or shell. Come to think of it a shell might have been an effective metaphor for vulnerability.

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Process: Styleframes

I take inspiration from film as well as other motion graphics and animations as I find that there can be very little distinction between the two. I have been influenced recently by the director Roy Andersson. I love his use of perspective to magnify the mundane and re-frame a scene. He, like Alain De Botton, believes in the beauty and the importance of small actions.
I’ve taken influence from his use of perspective in my animation in an attempt to make the scenes more dynamic. I think perspective is a relatively unexplored area in animation as often focus is put on the aesthetics or design of a character.

Process: Styleframes

Part way through creating the storyboards I began to envision what the finished film might look like. I created a few style frames to help me visualise what I was drawing. I got excited doing this and worked out what a few scenes would look like. At the time I was so satisfied with how these scenes looked that nothing about them changed in the final piece. I’m unsure if this is a result of my immediate and off-the-cuff style of working, or if I’m too precious with ideas.
The following images are a result of my experimentation with style frames. These style frames were a massive influence on the overall look and feel of the final piece. In hindsight I believe I should have experimented much more with style; I spent the first three weeks researching the topic and mulling over ideas, rather than devoting time to practise led research.

Despite this I think the visuals are particularly effective at a number of different points. Here(right) I think I effectively conveyed that nameless feeling of dull loneliness we can feel sometimes whilst on our phones, alone at night;that feeling of being connected to all our friends and family at the touch of a button, whilst simultaneously feeling really quite alone.

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Process: Storyboard

I came up with most of my ideas whilst storyboarding. As I’d decided only that the film was going to revolve around two friends/lovers I generated most of my ideas by taping a section of the script to the wall, and sketching ideas before finalising these into a story board. I created three different storyboards before I fully decided on the following pages.

I found that my emotional weightlifting illustrations were well suited to this topic and so they informed a good deal of the fims metaphors.

Though they are often drinking beer, I attempted to make the characters to appear as ‘big kids’ to illustrate how we can all be foolish, irrational and immature. This is in fact another philosophy of Alain De Botton’s. In his talk ‘On Love’1 he recommends we extend to ourselves and our loved ones, the same tolerance, and understanding we have for small children and their selfish behaviour. This is because we are all, at times, very selfish.

My illustrations often focus on loneliness, belonging and social anxiety and though none of these emotional issues are directly mentioned in the film I felt a it important to include them. I tried to do this without taking anything away from the original topic, but rather enhancing it with details of my own worries and vulnerabilities. I did this by making the ‘harsh critic’ Alain mentions in the first section a set of judges looking down on the character, and by having the character hyper aware of how he appears on social media.

I tried to devise a strong metaphor for each section of the film, however as I approached each part of the script separately I lost track of this aim and some of the scenes very literally translate Alain’s ideas. For example: to illustrate that the sharing of our vulnerabilities can reassure others that they are not alone in their shortcomings, the hat character shows his friend his foolish beer spill on his phone. This is a very literal way to represent this compared to the other sections of the film.

School of Life Research

Though I was already familiar with the work of the School of Life I had little knowledge of the work of Alain De Botton. As part of my research I read his book ‘The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work’, watched his documentary on status anxiety, and watched a large portion of his talks and videos available online. I think it’s fair to say my perspective has changed on a number of different issues.

His critique of Romanticism has opened my eyes to how disconnected our expectations are of love, to the reality of relationships. I’ve always had the mentality that love is a binary emotion, and it is this that dictates weather or not a relationship is successful. After watching his talks and listening to his podcasts on the topic I’ve since changed my mind.

Alain De Botton has also stressed the importance of self-knowledge and self love if we are ever to form meaningful relationships and create meaningful work. I was previously self conscious that these were these were the selfish indulgences of the spoilt millennial; I had no grasp that they were the foundation of a healthy society.

Furthermore, his insistence that ‘Being a little casual with a great thinker is the biggest homage one could pay to him or her’ has introduced me to the field of philosophy, something that previously appeared omniscient and insurmountable.

Process: Script

In researching other School of Life videos I found that the most effective films were split into distinct sections. When the film makers were able to identify changes in subject or tone, and use these changes to create chapters in the animation, the information was far easier to digest. And when that information is a solid 5 minutes of Alain De Botton informing you that you only love your husband because he hurts your feelings in the same way your father did, then it’s import the information is made a little easier to swallow.

I found that the script could be split up into 5 sections, and I used these sections to create chapters in the animation. This also made it easier to plan my workload.

The first section establishes that ‘from close up, none of us are particularly impressive’. We are all as embarrassing and as foolish as each other.

The second section explains how we all struggle to hide this fact, and ‘try to appear a great deal more normal’ than we are.

The third reveals how sharing our vulnerabilities helps us to form closer relationships and can be ‘an exchange of sympathy, for the troublesome business of being alive’.

The fourth section warns of the ways we should avoid being vulnerable to others, and teaches us the ways in which we should.

Whilst the final section argues that being vulnerable in these ways can in fact be a sign of strength, and reiterates that we are all as worried and foolish as each other, before reflecting on the fact that the sharing of vulnerability is not as commonplace as it could be.

I used these sections to structure my animation and by splitting the script up in this way, I found the project to be more manageable. I would have liked to have made the “chapters” of the film a little more obvious, and in retrospect this could have been done with some innovative transitions, or changes in tone.

Splitting the script up like this meant that I approached each part of the script separately. Generating ideas for each section in isolation meant that at points I lost sight of how the project might fit together. For example characters are depicted in a portrait shot, head on several times in the film, and I think this makes it harder to associate a visual queue with a piece of Alain’s advice as several parts of the film look similar.