Sunday, 25 December 2011


Between my birthday and Christmas I've done pretty well this year. :)

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Further Developments.

So, under closer inspection, my design of Noel is somewhat flat and uninteresting. So I'm jumping back to the drawing board for a few days in order to give the little dude a little more life. Here's where we're at.

Still got miles to go before I'll get some sleep but I'm making progress and getting better at drawing as I go along. 

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

The Story Of My Story.

If you've been following my blog posts (and if you have, thank you), you'll notice that the film I am now making is a little different from the one I spoke of at the very beginning. That's simply something that happens in this game, the treatment that I had written a month ago was what I pitched to my tutors and classmates about two weeks after I returned to college and started generating film ideas, it was always set to evolve into something more coherent.

It was a story about a scrawny teenager named Kevin who, in an effort to make himself more attractive to girls, decides to attempt weight training in his bedroom. Things go wrong, hilarity ensues. At the time of the pitch that was about all I had by way of story. I knew it was going to be made in Adobe Flash, I knew it was going to be short and I was damn sure I was going to keep it as simple as I possibly could. All I really had was a couple of character sheets and a very rough script. The pitch itself went really well and I got pretty positive feedback, but one thing was said to me by my tutor (Mr. Dave Quin) that ended up changing the whole story:

"He looks too tall and adult, make him more juvenile".

So with that advice and a little more from my classmates, I went back to the drawing board with my character designs and got to work on making the character less adult (and slightly more cartoonish). Over the course of about a week and a half, I did more drawing that I had done in years, redrafting again and again how this guy was meant to look. I experimented with heads, bodies, clothes, hairstyles and so on. I'd keep turning to my friends and asking them their thoughts on how the character looked. Slowly but surely I teased out how Kevin was going to look. Just before I took him to the finish line though, one more thing made me totally rethink how the story would play out. During one of the many conversations I had with my friend Niall, he drafted a quick little doodle to illustrate a point he was making about staging a shot. This little guy here:

While I watched Niall sketch out this little guy, I had a total light bulb moment. "It'll be about a little kid messing around in his brother's room!" I enthusiastically stated. This immediately made my character design turn a corner in a big way. Gone was the tall dude and in came a far younger, more interesting looking guy. 

So with my newly designed character I turned once more to nailing down story. The weights, while one of the original parts of  the story, no longer made sense to me. Now I had a kid in his big brother's room, what could happen? How much could go wrong? With those questions in mind I turned to my friend Joe who was able to blurt out inspiration like an emo kid produces dodgy poetry. With his valuable input, I crafted a story I'm pretty proud of. I'm now making a film about a young boy named Noel (Niall + Joe) who wanders into his big brother's room in search of toys and ends up doing much more than that. 

So there you have it. Naturally I'm going to keep the finer points of the story under wraps. I'll keep posting updates as production continues so please keep coming back. Your comments are always very much appreciated. 

Friday, 4 November 2011

So, That Thing I've Been Working On.

So that film I've been mentioning before, the one for college, I've been working incredibly hard on it. Thankfully my pre-production is done, many things are more or less locked down and I'm able to post about it. The idea that I told you before has evolved into something quite different but far more promising. So, where do we start?

It's called No Little Brothers Allowed and it's a short narrative comedy about a kid called Noel who wanders into his big brother's room looking for stuff to play with and ends up doing something much more than just nicking toys. The whole film is going to be made in Adobe Flash with touch ups being done either in Photoshop or After Effects. I'm capping this one about ninety seconds (short and sweet) and I intend to have the whole thing done and dusted by mid May. Everything in it has been given the go ahead so changes from here on in will be minimal.

Getting pre production done on time took an awful lot out of me. This was the first time that I've ever really had to organise so much about a film in time for a deadline without actually getting to animate. It was a very interesting and educational experience and I enjoyed it, in retrospect. I have all but my layouts essentially locked down so the next few weeks are going to be story reels and test animations. So, please. come back often. I'll be updating this blog quite regularly from here on in with little bits from the production that could be kinda cool. Until then, keep an eye out.

Debate With A Fine Artist. Sigh.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Storyboarding Blues.

Just a quick pointer, while I think of it. If you're ever storyboarding, start as small as you can and with a crappy sheet of paper. And use a pen. You just want to get your basic idea of what's happening on the screen and work from that. Sketch it out, so to speak.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Tuesday, 4 October 2011


I've touched on this before but the importance of it has only become evident to me in the last few days. As I find myself sitting at my desk for hours at a time or even sitting on my bed writing or doodling, I always have a little tunage rolling in the background, earphones have become an essential part of my day.

When working in a studio environment, you'll soon notice that many different people work in many different ways. Some people work away with their earphones in, some like to chat to people as they draw, others are happy to do their work in silence. Me, I'm a big fan of chatting away to someone as I work, as long as it's not something that requires any legitimate thought. I find it helps prevent me from getting too precious or immersed in what I'm doing. But when I'm trying to keep ideas flowing or work out things, I need to have my head in the right place. For this I absolutely need my earphones, big hi fi ones if I can get my hands on them. Acoustic music is recommended, or something you can tap your foot to, I've heard jazz is nice too. I don't advise listening to anything too lively or heavy, in the studio or at home. Animation is something that can only be done while stationary and any heavy music will just make you want to get up and jump around and dance so I fully endorse acoustic albums or film scores (The Social Network is excellent to work to). And remember, there's nothing wrong with bopping away to music while you're in a studio full of people, you're in an expressive business. Nobody is going to begrudge you a little dancing.

When it finally comes to animating, I can kinda switch off mentally and allow my hands and eyes to do their own thing. This is when I mix things up a bit and try to get something slightly more mentally stimulating than music. Podcasts and blu ray commentaries are excellent for this. I stress commentaries and not the actual film as it's so easy to just start watching the screen instead of what you're actually doing. I find that sometimes listening to someone enthusiastically talk about how they made a film or television show can be, dare I say, inspirational to me in my own work. It might also be a good idea to try and stick with more light hearted or humorous podcasts, you're going to be animating for hours, you want to keep your spirits up.

So if you're heading out to the studio or just about to sit down at home to doodle, make sure you've got a pair of earphones and some music. The earphones are particularly important because they not only spare your classmates/colleagues from your musical taste but they also deter your classmates from talking to you (hence the more obvious hi fi headphones). They're like personal "Do Not Disturb" signs. Don't forget that a little bit of studio chat is healthy and I highly recommend it, but when crunch time hits and you need to produce work, throw the headphones in and find a nice acoustic playlist on YouTube.

Friday, 30 September 2011

Back to Basics.

I've been thinking about photography of late and the process of it. There's so much science behind it that we never see, the aperture, shutter speeds, ISO. So many people spend a bundle on cameras that do all this for them, having no idea what's actually happening when they press shutter release. DSLR owners are often guilty of this themselves, simply setting their two thousand euro camera to Automatic and then calling themselves "photographers". Sure, they might catch and amazing moment that will never be repeated but it still feels somewhat cheap to me. Since I was given my lovely, bog standard Canon last year I've been fascinated with the camera machine itself, the reason I wanted that camera in particular was so that I could learn it from the ground up. I now find myself just wanting to know everything I possibly can about cameras and how they work, how photos happen.

At the top of my shelf sits this; a Phenix DC303N. I picked it up for
around two hundred euro about five years ago when I was dipping my
toes in Fine Art and Photography for my portfolio. It weighs about as much as my car, has a fixed fifty millimeter lens that I don't see myself changing and a viewfinder eyepiece that's only held secure by gravity. I took some nice pictures with it when I was seventeen, including my favourite picture of my mother. It's a camera I never gave enough credit to when I first had it and now I can't help but admire it's charm. Every day when I leave for college it catches my eye and in ways it reminds me of my first days of college, in some ways it reminds me of (if you'll forgive such a shameless cliché), simpler times. I now feel that it's being taken for granted where it sits, like a guitar sitting unplayed. I think it's time to take a little break from my gorgeous, complex little Canon and take the old model out for a spin. I'm gonna pick up a few rolls of film and see what I can get with this. It could all turn out like crap, that's certainly possible, but we'll have some fun along the way and maybe learn a few things about cameras and how they work. Also hoping to pick up a book or two on photography at some stage and start teaching myself some new things. I find my latest pictures are starting to look a little samey so I'm going to need to start mixing it up soon. This is going to be interesting.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

New Film.

I'm working on a new project, which is as of yet unnamed. This is my final film at IADT and possibly the last film that I'll be making all by myself for a long long time. This film is incredibly important as it's going to be the one that gets me my Bachelor's Degree and hopefully get me my first job in the  animation industry. So it's a pretty big deal.

So what am I making? I thought long and hard about that, all summer in fact, maybe even earlier. I had ideas about mutant families and I had ideas about classroom nuclear warfare. When we came back from our collective tastes of freedom, we were given a rather stirring speech by our course coordinator about the position we're in, how important the choices we make are going to be. He asked us to go away and ask ourselves a big question, what do you want from this? I obliged him and sat down on my own with a pad and pen and started writing . . .

What do I want?

A film I can be proud of.
A project I can finish.
Something I can get a job with.
Something colourful.
A film I'll learn from.
A project that's realistic. 
A project I've done all by myself.
A film that'll hold my interest. 
Something that'll get me a Degree.

So I got to thinking about what I want from this film and what I'm capable of doing. I went back to the drawing board with one important word in mind. "Simple". I could attempt to make a ten minute film about the sufferers of the holocaust, all made in 3DS Max. I could even try to sum up the emotional thunderstorm of a love affair through classical hand drawn animation. But I'd fail. Instead, I've decided to write a story about a young boy trying to make himself strong by lifting weights in his bedroom. I haven't got a huge message about love and loss and I don't intend to change people's lives with this. Instead I want to make a nice, tidy film that I can stand over in nine months and if I'm lucky, make some people smile. I made my depressing film last year (you'll see it at some stage) so now, now that I'm in a far better place in my life I want to make something that's just a little more positive. Much of the project itself is still changeable therefore I'm not really gonna bang on about it now. I'll tell you what I know. It's going to be short, like a minute and a half, I'll push it to two minutes if I have to, if I can shave more off it then all the better. As I've said before it's heavily inspired by the works of Birdbox Studio. It's going to be very simple, one character, one setting. It's going to be a gag based slapstick comedy, made in Flash but touched up in After Effects (my days of animating in paper are well over. I've used Flash before but I really want to learn as much as I possibly can about before I go out into the big bad animation world. The story is about a young guy called Kevin. Kev's a good kid who's very successful academically but is very small and weedy. He gets his hands on a set of weightlifting equipment and hilarious disaster ensues. Sounds thin enough at the minute but the foundation is there. I don't want to get into too much detail as of yet because nothing is really locked down and ideas are still hitting me as I type. I've thrown up some concept art to show how I'm developing the character and my basic idea of what I want the setting to look at (I stress how basic it is, just an idea of how I want to stage it and a rough idea of the way colour and texture will be used).

To be perfectly honest I think this is the first time I've ever properly tried to design a character from the ground up. Before I'd generally just draw what I saw in my head and run with it. This, I must point out, is the wrong way to go about things. This time I started out with what I wanted the basic shape of my character to be like. I first had a look at the way Bird Box have their characters constructed, they appear to be just three rectangles of similar size and shape tied together. This got my looking at ways of tying shapes like rectangles, triangles and circles to tease out how a character will look (the right way). So I sketched out a few ways in which I thought the silhouette might look.

After I found a body shape that appealed to me, I started up a new page to further develop it. It's around here I start asking myself "will this animate well? Will this be frustrating? Is it nice to look at?". I also started to give more consideration to proportions. After looking at some great stuff from Headless Productions, I knew that I wanted my character to have big hands with tiny limbs. I tend to automatically try to make things look realistic and I'm trying to move away from that with this, perhaps open up my mind a little more. I've also given Kevin big feet as I want him to have a good sense of balance and gravity. I kinda settled on the shape you see at the top of the image there but one of my lecturers suggested that I add a little more childishness to his silhouette so I'm gonna attempt to maintain the overall construction of him while still knocking off a few years. You can also see here that I started working on his face. This, sadly, is also relatively new territory to me (it sometimes shocks me that I've gotten this far as an animator). I took what basics I knew about constructing the head (thanks Niall) and started working from there. Pretty soon I noticed that the stuff that was working was egg shaped so I started trying to stick with that, the upright egg and the upside down egg. Sounds ridiculous but I need to work with what works for me. Babysteps. I've also started dicking around with faces but I stress that I'm still working on that. At the moment I've gone with the Tintin-esque black dot features and I'm kinda digging that. That said, I'll still experiment with different types because you can't just settle on the first thing that works. While I'm perfectly happy with the design of his face I'm still going to knock out a few experiments to try and improve it or maybe even stumble onto something entirely different.

Just before I pitched I decided to try out a few hair experiments which is something I've never really done with a character. It was actually quite a lot of fun! I looked at Disney characters at first, then moved on to people in my class, and then started looking at old webcam photos of myself (see if you can spot them). Some might say that something as minor as the hair is not important but in a project like this every little detail needs to be considered and experimented with. 

This here is a very basic and quick version of how the world will look, put together in about four minutes in Photoshop. I'm terrible at laying out a background so I'm taking this as an opportunity to improve on this. In this image I'm basically trying to work out the staging of the scene and what I'm actually going to need in the scene. I'm also quickly considering colour (I'll do a proper test once I have the actual layout worked out) and keen eyed viewers will notice the texture to give it a bit more polish. It's not great but it's what I'm going to start with. Better to be at the bottom of a ladder I want to climb than half way up one I don't. 

So that's what we have and that's the next two hundred or so days of my life. What's next? Planning. planning, planning. I've about four weeks to sort out my pre-production book which is essentially where all my decisions will be made. The book will contain my final character designs, layouts, script and all my research, after that it's nothing but animation. That would be fantastic if it wasn't for the feckin' thesis I've to do at the same time! I think I've chosen a good project to work on, manageable. I want this to be a positive experience and so far it has been. Let's get this right this time.  

Monday, 26 September 2011


I'll be honest, I have very little confidence in my abilities as an artist, be it in the application or in terms of my creative process. Because of this I have a bit of a problem with drawing, or at least motivating myself to draw. I tend to avoid it where possible. The real problem is that when you avoid it for so long you start to really lose your hand at it, which further damages confidence. So for the past year or so I haven't really touched pen to paper at all, hence the notable lack of drawn art on this blog of late. But of course this is no way to be for an animator, so as of last week I am back on the oul' drawing wagon. I've started to put together the main character for my latest film (more on that soon), what really makes me happy though is that I'm starting to learn things. I've learned, for the first time really, how to properly construct a character from the inside out rather than just winging it. It's been fun and I hope this sense of . . . correctness continues for as long as possible. Here's a quick shot of some of the design work I've been doing. I'll make a proper post about the film soon, when I have more stuff locked down.

Oh, and sorry for the slightly shoddy writing quality tonight, I'm a bit shattered. Cheers. 

Wednesday, 21 September 2011


So here we are, time to start a new film. I had ideas, and those ideas weren't too shabby at all. But I've been thinking far too big. Be it fate or coincidence, I attended a lecture were I was told about everyone making films too big last year the morning after watching loads of really simple, really well made animations by a little British studio called Bird Box Studio. I think I now know what to do, go back to the drawing board and think small, like proper small. At the moment I'm thinking one shot, one character, one tiny little story, one layout, one minute-ish. This of course is not going to make anything easier as such, just more manageable, more suited to me and what I'm trying to achieve. I know for a fact if I take on a three minute story with After Effects and bits of Maya then I'll end up with a big mess and a broken psyche. So now, it's time to generate story ideas, and fast. I know what I want from this film and I generally have an idea of how I'd like it to look, I just need to work out what happens. The cogs are turning, just gotta let them do their job. 

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

More Food.

I'm enjoying this business of taking photos of food. The only problem is that I don't really know if I'm developing it or even if I'm any good at it but I'm kinda digging the little shots I'm getting so I'll keep it going for a while and see if it gets anywhere. Here's some from a trip down the country with friends.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

New Lens!

As anyone who's wanders these parts will know, I love portraits. I generally try little else with my camera other than trying to shoot a single moment. I'm not really into studio stuff or anything particularly constructed, I just want to capture something I see. Unfortunately I was having trouble snapping moments that didn't occur in perfect daylight. Any time I wanted to get something indoors I'd have to use the stock flash on my camera. This was just short of useless given that the flash is so harsh it causes anyone looking at it to blink and it lights skin up to the point at which the subject looks like something from Cocoon. So with this in mind I asked around and found a bargain of a lens on Amazon. I managed to pick up this beautiful little lens for less than a hundred euro and it's already proved itself to be worth far more. It's fixed at a nice fifty millimeter size with a 1.8 aperture. The low aperture means I can shoot without a flash pretty much anywhere without making a mess of the shutter speed. I've taken it out once or twice already and I'm so happy with what I've got. Here's some I've taken in the last week.  

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Something A Little More Personal.

I better start this off by saying this has very little to do with art, it's more of a personal little project. I went to Donegal at the start of the summer with my friends, known as the Leader League (stop laughing). Before we departed I had this little idea to try and get as much of the trip on video as I could, between my friends Niall, Gemma and I. I'm a big fan of M. Shawn Crahan's random assortments of video from his many years of Slipknot touring and recording and I kinda wanted to give it a try. Record as much as I could get and then lay it out in a random assortment. I had also watched a montage video of another friends' adventures and wanted one of my own. So we recorded lots (and lots) of footage from the few days and when we got back I got to work on getting all my stuff cut. It started off at (I think) two and a half minutes long with no music, a bit Crahan-y. I showed it to my partner in evil Niall and he was all about it. With wide eyes and an ambitious grin he started thinking of what we could do with sound and the extra stuff from his camera. So a few weeks later I made my way down to his Tallaght home to start integrating his work too. Over two long days we laboured over about five hours of footage to extract the parts that made us feel like we were there again. It was long, stressful (Premiere is a prick) but ultimately incredibly fun and rewarding. After many hours, we finally have this: a seven minute montage with some music carefully selected and thrown on. I had an incredibly good time throwing this together and Niall did too. It may not seem like much to you and you may be questioning why you're reading this. That's cool, I just figure it belongs with other creations. And while it might not seem like much to you I'm extremely proud to have been a part of it. It was a complete labour of love and I know for a fact that it's going to bring smiles to the faces of those who you see in it, because it's damn sure brought a smile to mine.

Sunday, 7 August 2011


Accidents happen often in art. Be it a spilled container of paint or a slip of the pen, it sometimes works to make a piece better. I was sitting outside a bar in Manchester City on a sunny day with my sister and her fiancé, messing with my camera. I was telling a story about someone I know and how she shoots pictures. While trying to illustrate my point. I held my camera at chest level, aimed it roughly at my brother in law (Baz) and shot about ten images haphazardly. Without breaking conversational stride, I halfheartedly glanced at the camera to see what the pictures looked like and was pleasantly surprised to see that the picture was actually kinda cool. I didn't aim it with any sort of precision, I never checked shutter speed or aperture, and Baz himself was still listening intently to me, completely natural. Nothing about the picture was staged, and yet it's one of my favourite pictures to date.