Monday, 31 October 2011

Maya Tutorial: Mustang Roof...


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Now it has rain protection! :D

Some Face Work...

I need to give my characters faces, so I bit the bullet and this is what I have so far:


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Maybe her torso is a little too broad, I think her left side needs drawing in a little,I'm not sure, but I'm pretty happy with her so far!

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The bottom left and right faces are the ones I'm going for. They'll be similar to Haku's from Samurai Jack in that they'll have similarly exaggerated expressions. Due to Oni also being a shape-shifter I can use that to really push his emotions. Now, onwards! :D

Character Design: Monkey Silhouettes and Clown Costumes...


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Most of the designs are pretty generic but they were really fun exercises to do! :D

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Neill Blomkamp's 'District 9', 2009...

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Fig. 1 District 9 poster.
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District 9 is Neill Blomkamp's feature film debut and what a debut it was!



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Fig. 2 Wikus' struggle with his metamorphosis.
This film is a great example of what can be achieved with a low budget and a lot of care and attention. District 9 was given $30 million, a fairly low budget for a feature film, but received revenue of almost 7 times more from its box office release.  Despite the low funding the effects look absolutely stunning. The director had been in involved in the special effects for his previous short films, but the addition of WETA Workshop in New Zealand to the project meant that nothing in this science fiction film would appear at all fictional. Robert C. Ring expressed that "The special effects are superb, but they don't exist to be showcased. they are used to strengthen an engaging story." (Ring, 2011:94) All of the CGI and special effects look fantastic and real, it is clear that they were based on pre-existing objects to make them more believable, but they don't detract from the narrative.  A narrative that explores the emotional struggle of the central characters and also the underlying racial issues associated with South Africa. As Ring goes on to explain, that "It's easy to pass District 9 off as a simple apartheid analogy, but its concerns are much broader than that. This is a film about the horror of great change. It is about being placed in a situation so dire that all you can do is fight, even though there's virtually no chance of escape. It is about hope and the disappointment of hope unfulfilled." (Ring, 2011:94-5) this 'great change' is visually represented by the horribly physical metamorphosis that Wikus, the main character, suffers through.  Again, these effects look great but don't detract from the more serious issues that the film portrays.

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Fig. 3 Welcome to District 9.
Although Ring describes the film as not being a 'simple apartheid analogy', it is perhaps this analogy that is the most significant to the narrative and the director.  Roger Ebert divulged that "The title District 9 evokes Cape Town's historic District 6, where Cape Coloureds owned homes and businesses for many years before being bulldozed out and relocated." (Ebert, 2011)  Not only is the title significant here, but the scenes when the aliens are being forcefully evicted from their homes mirrors what happened in Cape Town.  The similarities don't end there as Ebert continues "the alien language incorporates clicking sounds, just as Bantu, the language of a large group of African apartheid targets." (Ebert, 2011).  Although the aliens have minimal resemblance to humans, their actions and language are directly linked to them. The apartheid was an example of humanity's ability to use its own greed and ignorances to segregate those they viewed as inferior and prevent them from ever having equal experiences. He then explains that "there's a harsh parable here about the alienation and treatment of refugees." Which is never more relevant than it is now.  At a time when war is rife in under-privileged countries, such as Afghanistan, refugees are seeking help from wherever they can, and whether they receive it or not is totally dependant on their host.  In District 9 the aliens are stuck in Johannesburg, a city already known for its violence, so they treat the aliens with hostility and fear. Keeping what is different and misunderstood seperate from them, in an attempt to keep their own quality of life from being affected. A technique used in the film to increase the reality of these situations is the 'mockumentary' style of filming.  It is filmed in the same way as a real documentary would be but it consists of entirely fictional material. this allowed the narrative to be non-linear in nature but contain large sections of linear plot so not to detract from the story.  Stephen King mentioned on the subject of 'mockumentary' films that "Not until District 9 do we find genius perfected.  It's not "pure," if we take that to mean absolute adherence to the idea of amateurs with cameras - and of course D9's not a pure horror movie, either - but the technique allows the film to achieve a sense of reality that's seldom seen in the old monsters-from-space genre.  With its use of mixed media - documentary footage, fake news reports, even what looks like home movies - District 9 is closer to Orson Welles' radio version of War of the Worlds than it is to an entertaining but ultimately disposable big-budget flick like Independence Day." (King, 2011) District 9's use of the fake documentary style filming has allowed it to surpass being a traditional or generic alien invasion movie and keep it from falling into the horror genre.


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Fig. 4 The alien experience.
Not only did the documentary style of filming effect the way the audience interpreted the narrative, but the use of colour within the mise-en-scene also added to the audience's view of tone. Julian Schürholz divulged that "during the introductory interview with Wikus, the entire mise-en-scene is predominantly pastel-coloured...The same is true for the interviews. The effect is the creation of an impersonal, clean, and somehow "balanced" atmosphere." (Schürholz, 2010:9) The audience's first introduction to Wikus is important because they are supposed to feel that he is 'the good guy' as he works for the company that is supposed to look after the aliens. However, this sterile environment does not convey warmth of character at all, it in fact creates the opposite, a kind of cold, unfeeling atmosphere. A similar example is the choice of white paint jobs on the company's (MNU) vans. Schürholz believes it "evokes allusions of the United Nations' peacekeeping troops... However, the soldiers being heavily armed, armoured, and dressed in all black, look nothing like the UN's "Blue Barrets" but more that Special Forces combat units." (Schürholz, 2010:9)  White traditionally being associated with innocence and safety is now associated with the threat of violence and hostility. The examples of pastel and pure colours act as direct contrast to the mise-en-scene of the aliens slum home in District 9. Schürholz described the scenes in the alien slum as "typically coloured a dusty brownish yellow, which is nolens volens evoking allusions to the real-world contemporary coverage by the so-called embedded journalists in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq." (Schürholz, 2010:9) This is now visually reflecting the current situation in the war zones such as Afghanistan. When compared to the sterile colours of the human world, the aliens more natural colours, even in their dire living conditions, can be considered much warmer and less threatening.  


Overall, District 9 is a stunning example of the difference good design and art-direction can make to a film in the science-fiction genre. It is not only an exciting action adventure but a journey into humanity's fear of change and the cost it can have to those that suffer because of it.

List of Illustrations

Figure 1. District 9 (2009) District 9 poster. At: http://www.cinemablend.com/images/news/13485/_1244572297.jpg (Accessed on: 30/10/11)


Figure 2. District 9 (2009) Wikus' struggle with his metamorphosis. At:http://images.wikia.com/district9/images/9/92/District9pic3.jpg (Accessed on: 30/10/11)

Figure 3. District 9 (2009) Welcome to District 9. At: http://www.blogcdn.com/www.cinematical.com/media/2009/07/2009_district_9_003.jpg (Accessed on: 30/10/11)


Figure 4. District 9 (2009) The alien experience. At: http://popculturenerd.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/District-9-Flower.png (Accessed on: 30/10/11)



Bibliography

Ebert, Roger (2011) Roger Ebert's Movie Yearbook 2011. Missouri: Andrew McMeel Publishing LLC.

King, Stephen (2011) Danse Macabre. London: Hodder and Stoughton

Ring, Robert C. (2011) Sci-Fi Movie Freak. USA: Krause Publications.

Schürholz, Julian (2010) Mockumenting South Africa? Race and Segregation in"District 9". Germany: GRIN Verlag.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Character Updates!

After Phil's comments I hopped back and made some changes:

Oni:




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I gave him ankles! Maybe they're not quite big enough yet but they're much better than they were. Also, I replaced his weird spindly finger toes with claws, which is always an improvement! :P However, I think he has too much 'wisp' all over him. Once it's reduced a little it will be just about right!



Inari:

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The big one on the right I think is her final outfit. I'm sure It'll change when I add her props on and finish up her face design but it's nice to have something to work from now! :D


Kitsune:
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I want to start suggesting that Kitsune's very mouldable and flexible because she can shape-shift when she needs to, and I think this is getting there. Also, Instead of having her pure white I've taken Inari's colour scheme and given her a soft beige colour, which is much more appropriate and will also be more interesting when she Battle Cat's into her nine-tailed super-self.

More soon!

Some Expressions for Kitsune...


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They're pretty cute and I'm hoping to have fun with exaggeration later because she's a shape-shifter and therefore could really show extreme emotions.  For now though this is a good start :D


A Bit of Work on Oni...


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He's definitely still a work in progress but his shape is much more like the one I'm after. He may become more hulking as I go and I'll keep most of the colour ideas but I think there's still a lot of refining to be done.

More Outfits for Inari (Comments Appreciated!)...

After the comments I received on my previous five costumes I thought I'd take what they liked most and have  go at combining them. Here's what I have:

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I thought I'd include the original five in case there was something that people liked but I missed. They're getting there I think, but feedback is much appreciated! :D


Saturday, 22 October 2011

Robert Wise's 'The Day the Earth Stood Still", 1951...

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Fig. 1 The Day the Earth Stood Stood Still poster.
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Robert Wise's The Day the Earth Stood Still is still a charming and very well crafted science-fiction film.  Though some elements have aged poorly (such as the heroine falling randomly on to a pile of deck chairs) the general design of the space ship and the alien warmth of Klaatu are just a couple of the reasons this film is still thoroughly enjoyable now.


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Fig 2. A peaceful greeting.


The film may seem cliché now with its flying saucer and shiny space-suited alien, but it was the reason for these clichés. Due to its unique story and impressive visuals its influence is still seen in science-fiction films today. However, the film was more than a stylised sci-fi movie. It could be considered a message on the fears of our atomic age, at a time when the Cold War was a terror known too well to the American cinema-goers. It was a time where Americans feared the 'Reds' and their communist ideals, and to top it off they had a much more physical threat to them in the form of a nuclear attack.  Anne Cranny-Francis points out that "It is an interesting film for the period, not least because its major alien figure, Klaatu...is presented not as combative and imperialistic but as peace-making.  It is the conflict-ridden Earth that is presented as the potential predator - an unusual story in a Cold War film.(Cranny-Francis, 2005:84)  Despite the country's fears about an impending attack, the narrative is in fact making man (in this case those in Washington D.C.) the threat. It is no one country but the Earth as a whole that is acting thin a threatening manner and Tony Shaw picks up on this by saying "Despite its fantastic plot, the end product patently makes serious well-crafted points about the build-up of nuclear weapons and the Red Scare.  The film conveys the inability of world leaders, including the American president, to compromise(Shaw, 2007:142) This inability to compromise is what leads Klaatu to become impatient with our world. He is a peaceful and welcoming being, with nothing but an important message to send to us, and what is the first thing the American president does? Keeps Klaatu locked away in a hospital to keep him from speaking to anyone else. The Cold War  was an example of a time when ignorance and petty grudges started  up to something drastic and the immaturity shown by the president then is represented in the film here.  It is this disregard for the safety of your people in the name of petty rivalries that will lead Earth to its destruction, in the film it is by alien hands but worryingly in real-life it would be ourselves.Chris Barsanti explains that "Its powerful warning to live in peace or suffer the consequences couldn't present a starker or more ever-timely choice." (Barsanti, 2011:253) The Cold War was a time when one of two things could happen: stand down and negotiate with your enemies, or face annihilation, so Klaatu's message more than resonates with their current climate.


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Fig. 3 Klaatu and Dr Barnhardt.
Klaatu's responsibility as a peaceful messenger has many interesting roles.  One of which is the role as the pacifist that befriends another pacifist figure, the scientist Dr. Barnhardt.  Shaw expressed that "Most unusually for films of this era, The Day the Earth Stood Still depicts pacifist intellectuals sympathetically. Klaatu befriends Dr Barnhardt...a well-known non-communist progressive (who would be blacklisted in 1951-2) with a physical resemblance to Einstein." (Shaw, 2007:143)  The befriending of the doctor is very significant, as not only does it show that scientists are not only more open minded but civil than the American government but his physical resemblance to Albert Einstein will remind the audience of his disapproval of atomic weapons.  Both of these men take it upon themselves to do what the world's governments cannot. Nancy Lusignan Schultz divulged that "the men in charge - an alien visitor and a genius mathematician - must create fear in order to "contain" the possibility of future destruction. By making the world "stand still," the film operates as a metaphor for the logic of the use of the bomb at the end of World War II." (Lusignan Schultz, 1999:288)
Though this interpretation is perhaps more 'pro' atomic weapons, it is still an equally valid view.  These pacifist figures must do something drastic themselves to prevent the world from its own demise. However, they do use means that are entirely harmless but still very intimidating for the world's population and though the stillness created is more literal than that of the aftermath of an atomic bomb, the fear created from them is equal.  This fear is used against him in the media storm surrounding his actions. Shaw explains that the film "then shows how easy it is for the media to whip up public hysteria, to the point at which Klaatu is tracked down and killed like a wild animal. A few in the audience might even have seen Klaatu as a Chist-like figure persecuted for carrying a message of peace and willing to die to save the world." (Shaw, 2007:142)  Though this reference is thinly veiled, Klaatu does sacrifice himself so the world can receive his message.  He is hunted down and persecuted, much like Christ was, and his resurrection at the end of the film acts a seal to provide, those aware of Christ's resurrection, certainty that he is there to protect the world and to prevent us from harming ourselves further.

The Day the Earth Stood Still had some great characters that were played so well by the actors that they have not aged at all. The ship Klaatu lands in still looks great and gorgeously sleek, where perhaps his robot, Gort does not.  All things considered though this was a thoroughly enjoyable film that paved the way for a lot of science-fiction movies today.

List of Illustrations

Figure 1. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) The Day the Earth Stood Still Poster. At: http://www.liveforfilms.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/day-the-earth-stood-still-poster-453x700.jpg (Accessed on: 22/10/11)

Figure 2. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) A peaceful greeting. At: http://dvdmedia.ign.com/dvd/image/daytheearthstoodstill_01.jpg (Accessed on: 22/10/11)

Figure 3. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) Klaatu and Dr. Barnhardt. At: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_QqvfSFxx5rI/TRt1E0RVeGI/AAAAAAAAZXY/wMDc0afWWL0/s1600/43_onemorethingMrKlaatu_whatisthealternative.jpg (Accessed on: 22/10/11)

Bibliography

Barsanti, Chris (2011) Filmology: A Movie-a-Day Guide to the Movies You Need to Know. USA: Adams Media

Cranny-Francis, Anne (2005) MultiMedia: texts and contexts. London: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Lusignan Schultz, Nancy (1999) Fear itself: enemies real & imagined in American culture. USA: Purdue University Press.

Shaw, Tony (2007) Hollywood's Cold War. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Inari's Clothing...

They're all variations on the same theme but I thought I'd just get a few up and hopefully people will let me know what they think works in which outfit so I can have a go at making a more successful combination :D



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Here's the influence map I was using too:



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Maya Tutorial: Mustang Rear...


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It's getting there!

Character Design: Body Language...

This lesson was a lot of fun yesterday. It took everyone out of their comfort zone a little but I think it was a massive help when it comes to learning how to portray a character through a stick figure's body language alone.
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Sherlock Holmes and Bumbling Watson, Hobo and Yuppie, "You're fired!"
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Having a go at drawing facial expressions:
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The expressions work okay I think but the face shapes are an example of how bad I am with consistency.  It'll be great when I finally give my characters faces so I can see how crazy their expressions can get but I think the body language drawings were top this time. 

Some Rough Character Drawings...

I'm trying to get used to the design of my characters now so that when it comes to drawing them I'll be able to do it without much thought. For these drawings I really just focused on Inari and Oni's body shape:

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You can see by these drawings that her body shape is changing pretty much every time, but I think once I get her costume sorted and actually give her a face then I can look at the lengths of her body parts so I can start making rules about how everything should look. As for her sword, I started trying to draw that out on the train (which was just silly, you can't do lovely lines on a train!) so that's super rough and generic at the moment.

Above is the first drawing of Oni, I wanted him next to Inari so I can start making him the complete opposite of her.


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Justin gave me some really great advice for my characters yesterday. He suggested that I ramp up the 'spirit' side of the characters. Inari will be mostly human but magical so she isn't so bad, whereas Oni needs to look really not of this world and Justin explained that at the moment he is demon-like but he isn't looking much like he's from the spirit world, he's much too physical.  So the plan is to make him bigger, meaner and more spirit-ey.
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This is what I have so far, not much, but his shape is really starting to get there. Justin said that he could be more bulkier than The Hulk so that's what I plan to do! I'm going to play around with his proportions, making the tops of his arms and legs huge and the bottoms more tapered and thin. The shape is almost there though, and the magical side of things I though that his horns might not by physical at all, they may actually be floaty, fiery horns that change with his moods. Also, his belt across his chest that holds his magic evil amulet could be suspended by more magical floaty substances.

It's good stuff to be getting on with though, so onwards! :D


Monday, 17 October 2011

Rough Character Constructions...

As I'm lagging behind a bit on the actual drawing side of character design I decided to get the rough body shapes for my three characters up.

First is the hero, Inari:






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I want her to seem young and nimble but strong. I tried basing it on images of Pocahontas and I'm actually quite happy with what I have.  Her general shape is good enough and I like her colour scheme but her costume will definitely change a lot, I just wanted to give her something to get an idea down and I like the general idea but her sock things are maybe too long and her head scarf needs a lot of tweaking.

Villain, Oni:

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The same as previously, another image to get the rough body shape and colour scheme of the character and again I like both generally.  His costume is definitely unfinished and I need to personalise both of the characters' props but I do really like his colouring.  Another thing I want to change is his build, I don't think this is anywhere near bulky enough yet but I was just relieved to find his rough shape really.

Sidekick, Kitsune:
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These are only slightly different to those I've previously drawn of Kitsune because I get very nervous when it comes to drawing animals. I'm inexperienced and they have more limbs that are funny looking in comparison to people but I had a go anyway. I quite like what I have to be honest, although it isn't much I think her general sweetness and slinkiness is there. I didn't play too much with colour here because I think she'll start off white, wearing her red scarf/collar, and she'll change depending on the circumstances (like a chameleon but more magical).

Now I have somewhere to start when it comes to personalising their props! Yay! :D