Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Final piece

It took a whole day to take the photos that I used for this, I'm happy with the way it looks but if I had more time I would edit the speech to look more realistic. I tried my best to get the mouth to appear lifelike, but I actually like the way the speech is off.
It makes the whole thing more unsettling, I hope.


My initial thoughts on my own everyday routine and the often overlooked daily application of makeup got me thinking about make up in more bizarre and dramatic contexts: theatre make up; prosthetics; drag queens; child beauty queens.

I settled on the latter as a main focus after being captivated (and repulsed) by documentaries on the subject. I was intrigued, not only by the pageant industry itself, but the public's fascination in it, reflected on the sheer number of related reality TV shows. The controversy sparked by these strange events suggests my piece would provide a discussion point for audiences.

The personal element I brought to the animation (as well as my first ideas) was the strongly negative opinion of child pageants that I hope to communicate through my work, and the questions I asked myself along the way: Should young children be wearing make up? How old should we be before we do so? Are there any positive aspects to child pageants? Do these little girls really enjoy what they're being forced to do? I also used my own daily make up routine as a reference for the marks I made on my doll and the order that I did this in.

In terms of representing the 21st century, I may be depicting a minority, but it seems as though these pageants have never been so popular and such a strong focus in the media. It's getting more and more extreme and I want to reveal this, shocking the audience as much as possible so that they continue to think about what it means.

There is no doubt I have vastly improved my (previously non-existant) animation skills. I had no idea there was so much technical thinking to be done before filming even started; I found things like timing very hard to get my head round, but I have a clearer idea of this now. My conceptual skills were also tested, as I had to think deeply about why I was using certain materials and ideas, and what they meant. Though I am not the subject of the animation, I feel as though my own voice is present in the form of my ideas and the decisions I have made. Hopefully this is evident in my preceding notes and visual experiments.

                                   Taylor Momsen?

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Statement of Intent

From the beginning I wanted to highlight the idea that 'the everyday' need not be average or mundane; many people's daily life is normal to them but would seem absurd to outsiders. Initial ideas led me to examine my own daily routine. As a teenage girl in 20th Century Western cultural, vanity and self image is a huge focus. make up is an essential part of my day, along with almost all of my peers. Rituals like applying makeup are often overlooked, simply because they are so commonplace.

I want to show make up in a more drastic and unusual context, reflecting how unsettled I felt watching TV documentaries about child beauty pageants, which fuelled my final idea. With this film I am aiming to capture this feeling, along with ideas of inappropriateness and excess of make up, emphasised by a fairly abstract setting as oppose to the shows I researched. After looking at the work of artists along with my own wider research, it seems obvious to use a doll. This was cemented when I chose to use clips of real little girls talking about the make up they wear, and one was saying "I look like a dolly". She sounded thrilled by this, but what did it really mean? These girls are literally being turned into inanimate, artificial dolls by their crazed, shallow, prize-hungry mothers.

I want to use these carefully-selected sound bites with interludes of classical music (the Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy - what else) to add drama and a tiny bit of humour to my animation, which could end up being very dark and creepy an amusing edge. I will achieve this by picking phrases that are almost too ridiculous to be true, and using strong lighting so it's not too dingy. I want to use real speech as it grounds my piece in reality, a reality which would be impossible to believe without this proof, to shock the audience. Though my approach is fairly lighthearted, I am also intent on negatively portraying the adornment and exhibition of children as objects. Dolls like the one I'm using are already grotesque fetishizations of real babies/todders; they are made to look unnatural for appeal. Let's see how much worse I can make it, using images of baby beauty queens to gradually pile makeup on to its face until it looks ridiculous.

Scans from folder

These are from the folder I've been keeping as a record of all my research and ideas:

Firstly, here are the 9 different mouths I made, according to my animated speech research. I thought about using plasticine to mould different mouth shapes to the doll's face in a claymation style, but settled on paper as it worked well in my experiment (showed up well on camera) and, though fiddly, was not too difficult to change from frame to frame. I have to think carefully about which one to choose each time and for how long (the shape of a talking mouth relies on sounds rather than letters of the alphabet) but I was happy with the result. The timing will never be perfect, but I like the artificiality of the paper mouth and it will allow me to change the colour gradually to emulate the application of lipstick.

This is a very complicated and boring diagram showing how I planned the timing visually (in terms of speech/musical interludes) and how many seconds each spoken phrase takes, word  by word. This will be useful when thinking about speech, as I will have to dissect each syllable. I have started to do this below.

I have not formulated a traditional storyboard as, despite having a clear idea in my mind of the final outcome, I am a fan of accidental changes as these can often be original and interesting. I am open to alterations that may happen, so I'm trying not to plan carefully. All I really need is the rough one below, which makes sense to me (and probably no one else) combined with the notes above.

I'm almost ready to begin the final animation...

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Concept drawing

I drew a picture of the doll i have been using to get my ideas going.

I have decided to use a different doll as this one has got quite dirty and I want one that has hair and a body. I'm hoping this will look more like the 'living dolls' I have researched below:

Saturday, 30 April 2011

Artists who use dolls

Before I start filming, I want to consolidate my ideas by exploring artists who have used dolls in their work,
here are a few of my favourites:

Hans Bellmer

According to good old Wikipedia, Bellmer 'was a German artist, best known for the life-sized pubescent female dolls he produced in the mid-1930s'. He recreated the doll girl in a variety of contorted forms, all of which I find extremely scary. The fear they provoke is owed to their resemblance to a real body, combined with their Surrealist abstraction from it; they are both human and not-human. Like the dolls I have been using to depict the horrors of the pageant world, Bellmers 'poupees' give a sense of something not quite right. This is not surprising when we consider his inspiration was unrequited lust for a young girl. Like me, Bellmer manipulated his 3D object to create photographs, but he built it himself rather than using found objects.
' In acknowledging his objectification of the nubile form Bellmer seems to have stumbled across something much deeper, the tragedy of being that nubile form. Young women, though beautiful, often seek validation in a variety of ways. Society pushes such an archetype to be complacent and accepting of any affection given to them, even forcing them to play the role of the victim.'
- Interesting words from an extensive article found at http://volatilestructure.wordpress.com/2009/02/25/the-object-of-desire-la-poupee/

Jake and Dinos Chapman
From Six Feet Under (1997)

It would be hard not to choose these brothers, as I used to see them in the pub opposite my work! Long before this, I had found images of their strange mutant doll sculptures in books and been shocked by them from a young age. They manipulate life-sized plastic dolls to shock audiences, like I hope to. Though I'm not using life-size mannequins or mutating the body shape, I want a similar sense of obvious artificiality (hard, shiny plastic) which is unsettling in its imitation of human characteristics. I can see a lot of Bellmer's influence in their work with dolls.

Tracey Moffat
Doll Birth 1972

I had not come across this photographer before researching this project. I was taken aback by this image of two boys playing, from her 'Scarred for Life' series. Though it looks like a simple snapshot, this image uses the doll as a prop to show the tragic and the comic; in Moffat's words 'there is a thin line between both.'

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Last animation lesson!

Today I had planned to make (and edit) a lot more experiments, but I ran out of time as we had peer reviews.

I decided, instead of experimenting with a range of different camera angles, zooming and repetition, to try and do them all at once, kind of blindly as I didn't have time to try out a lot.

Here's what I came up with:

I wanted to see if I could make the mouth movements a little more realistic in time to words, but this still needs a lot of work (though I don't need it to be perfect as evident artificiality is integral to my film). I can polish this by studying human speech and drawing how each sound shapes the mouth, along with looking at existing examples for reference.

I have done very minimal editing here (only spent about 5 minutes doing it) because of time restrictions, but hopefully the main ideas I was trying to animate are evident.

The effect of dispensing with the mirror and vast expanse of background is that the viewer is confronted fully by the doll (particularly when it is facing forwards and zoomed in) and this is unsettling. It is as though the face on the screen is trying to communicate with the audience, which is fairly sinister, but I was aiming for this.

The idea of spinning the head round was fairly spontaneous as I had originally hoped to shoot some frames from different angles (high up, low, far away, from the side...) but was unable to do this. I like the effect but I don't really know what it's saying, apart from perhaps trying to turn away/ escape the viewers gaze.

The wink at the end was just for fun, I was trying to see if I could get it to look creepy and it did. I only shot 4 frames of the eye closing at different stages, then copied these in reverse order to get the eye open again at a consistent speed. I think this was a good trick and saved some time, I could do the same when I've made more mouth shapes - I could have about 10 of them and use them in different orders to create the effect of words; shooting each word separately in sequence would be tedious.

New Ideas

I have decided to make some changes to the soundtrack of my animation, which will completely transform it. I have continued to watch more documentaries of child beauty pageants after being fascinated/horrified by the Living Dolls one I saw in the early stages of this project.

I have taken some audio clips from 'Toddlers & Tiaras' (all of which is available on YouTube) of girls as young as 3 talking about their daily make-up routine...

I am going to experiment with setting these to music as kind of snippets of speech that break up the animation, a structure which has allowed me to think of a narrative and begin creating a storyboard (coming soon)

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Practice film

I copied the first section of my practice animation using FinalCut to create a repetitive effect which emulates daily routine. I think it's an improvement, but a lot still needs to be done!
I want to reuse this idea of repetition/monotony so it seems like a big, dramatic shock when I break away from it.

I need to think about WHY I'm using dolls - is it just convenient or have I carefully chosen them as found objects and considered their history and connotations to add something (what?) to my animation. I can look at other artists who use them, like Hans Bellmer, Viktor & Rolf, Jake & Dinos Chapman...

I also need to play around with pace - what would the effect be if I made the whole thing much slower (like the hypnotic 'Im-perfection' animation I came across in my research) - I should consider this idea of imperfection and masking or enhancing beauty.

I can change the camera angle to give different perspectives - I often need to take a step back and evaluate what I'm doing as well. It was pointed out that this practice film was shot from above, making the doll appear more vulnerable, which was purely accidental, but needs to be considered!

I could also experiment more with repetition and attempt to incorporate human body parts alongside dolls'.

I need to think back to concepts of psychological dependance on make up and the disturbing artificiality forced upon baby beauty queens.

Everyday: experiments

I worked all day on editing the images I took last Friday as an experiment for my final piece. I was looking at things like composition, lighting, how quickly/slowly to move things, how I can give an inanimate object lifelike facial expressions, and general pacing of the animation.

These experiments caused me to think hard about what I want to achieve aesthetically with my outcome and what I want it to say as a finished piece.

1 - flickering light/mascara wand
This was just really to see the relationship between the doll, the mirror and the camera. I had to angel the mirror so as not to accidentally appear in the reflection. I also tried not to have my hands in any of the shots. The flickering light was unintentional, and I quite like it/ it reminds me of the Quay Brothers. I wanted to dwarf the doll with this big mascara wand to show a send of overwhelming and premature pressure to wear makeup.

2 - first attempts at moving mouth
This was fairly unsuccessful - the lips I made were too light in colour and too small.

3 - doll's head - mouth movements

This is the experiment I did before the longer animation at the bottom of this post, I was seeing what effects I could achieve with only 4 different mouth shapes. I like the balance of obvious artificiality mimicking real life. I'd like to film/study human facial expressions in more detail, for example that funny face people pull when they apply mascara.

4 - doll's head - eye movements
As with the lip movements above I have shown the video at normal speed and then slowed down to half the speed afterwards. Here I tried to creative the effect of blinking, but was less worried about making it appear realistic - I was going for more of an unsettling/sinister effect.

5 - longer animation attempt

I talked to Jason and Alejandra and they both mentioned that it might be better to zoom in more, so more of the screen is composed of skin; it would be better focused instead of having a lot of useless white background.
Image and video hosting by TinyPic
Jason also made the comment that it would be interesting to discard the mirror and have the doll facing/confronting the viewer. This will be my next experiment as it would be interesting to have the camera as a kind of mirror.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Gabriel Orozco

Instead of working in the lab on Wednesday we visited the Tate Modern to see the Gabriel Orozco exhibition.
If you don't feel like reading all those scribbles, here's a summary:
  • Orozco reinvents everyday objects, taking them out of context or manipulating them slightly, to make them seem more unusual (I plan to do this!) examples: abstracted washing lines/laundry in 'Lintels', collected and laid out pieces of tyres, spat-out toothpaste turned into patterns...
  • In his famous piece 'Black Kites' (from the exhibition poster)  he has pain-stakingly drawn squares onto a human skull.*
  • In paintings like 'The Eye of Go' the artist uses black circles to create a sense of the scientific, as well as emulating the strange bubbles in 'First was the Spitting' (paintings which use toothpaste/spit as a starting point)
*this could be relevant to what I am doing with painting on doll's faces with black ink.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Southbank sequence

We were instructed to make a sequence of images similar to the one we made at uni last week; I got a bit distracted by the sunshine so I only have a few, but here they are:

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Sequence of images

To practice putting images into a narrative sequence, we were sent to the library armed with a camera, to collect images we thought linked together in terms of theme, shape or colour.

Grace and I started by simply collecting images of as many yellow things as we could find and putting them together.

Then we moved on to books of portraits and other art books, taking images we thought were related and would tell an interesting story. We started with just one image that interested us: an old movie still of Dracula. Then we took as many related images as we could in such a short space of time and put them in order. We were aiming to tell the life story of a vampire backwards, from rebirth to death to adulthood, childhood, birth etc.
Grace and I used FinalCut to play around with the order and timing until we were happy with the sequence; here's what we came up with:

Monday, 14 March 2011

Some comments on the everyday and makeup

"I don't believe in dressing up reality. I don't believe in using makeup to make things look smoother."
Lou Reed


What are days for?
Days are where we live.
They come, they wake us
Time and time over.
They are to be happy in:
Where can we live but days?

Ah, solving that question
Brings the priest and the doctor
In their long coats
Running over the fields.

Philip Larkin

“I don't like standard beauty - there is no beauty without strangeness.”
Karl Lagerfeld


I watched this Greek film (the title translates as Dogtooth) during GIS week,
which made me think about how 'the everyday' doesn't have to be mundane;
for some people every day is unimaginably bizzarre.

Though this film is obviously not animated, actually focusing very strongly on traditional filming, I want to use these ideas to make my animation unsettling and unusual.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Kirsten Lepore

Just discovered this animator
she's been getting a lot of awards!!

Here's an everyday conversation about becoming a vegan...

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Make up/ body paint

I brainstormed 'the everyday' and daily routine
and decided to focus on the application of make-up as an everyday event that is often overlooked.
I found the following videos to start off my ideas, though I want to work on a smaller scale and with human-like objects rather than people.

This one from the early 60s is amazing as it also tells a story
I am considering also using prosthetics/ adding or subtracting parts of the face for a more extreme effect.

I need to begin brainstorming visually, for example sourcing objects, making models, and trying out effects and timing.

WHY MAKE UP? From a personal perspective and for many girls/women I interact with, make up is an essential part of everyday life and daily routine. A lot of people I know won't leave the house without make up, and shows like Snog Marry Avoid expose people who are so addicted to make up that it's scaring people away from them. I started my research with child beauty pageants, a perfect example of the unnecessary and horrific overuse of make up in everyday life. These 'living dolls' are barely recognisable under thick layers of tan, foundation, mascara, eyeshadow and glitter, looking more like mini drag queens than pretty little girls. I want to expose this sense of make up as a burden that congeals and conceals beauty instead of complimenting it.

Ruth Hogben/ other influences

I've been watching a lot of Ruth Hogben fashion films and, though not strictly animation, they have a fascinating contrast between fluid and jerky motion.

I also love her use of fast/slow motion, symmetry and repetition.

I watched an interesting interview where she said she starts not with the music, or a visual idea, but with the garments themselves. The rest of the ideas stem from this.

She has worked with Lady Gaga for her tour interludes and designers like Celine and Gareth Pugh, sometimes even replacing their catwalk shows entirely with her fashion films. This is the future!

I particularly like this Nick Knight film (edited by Hogben) which reminds me of the dark style of the Quay Brothers. It is inspired by Annie Chapman who Jack the Ripper killed on the site of my old workplace (All Saints, Jack's Place) so I feel quite a strong connection to it - we always said the building was haunted.

I have been re-watching films by the Brothers Quay and this has led me to consider using 3D animation - something i have not done since the first week. I might even use found objects/dolls as they have done, though I want a more colourful and updated interpretation.


Friday, 25 February 2011


I have read through the brief and am yet to sit down and brainstorm visual ideas, but I know what audio I would like to use and plan to use this as a starting point.
The song reminds me of the frantic, rushed way I get ready in the morning as I'm always running late.

I want to do something quite humorous and simple, perhaps focusing on one character.
Inspiration: Marcel the Shell

This is a good example of an animation that's slightly longer (ours needs to be 1-2 minutes)
It was awarded Best Animated Short at the AFI FEST 2010 and was an official Sundance selection.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Seeing sound: Final cut

....we finished episode 1 of Cloud Girl.

We used Final Cut Pro to select parts of film and audio clips, combine film and audio clips, change the speed of film clips (to 50%) and divide clips with the 'blade' tool so we could modify them and make the whole thing more seamless.

For example, we cut out a couple of frames where our hands (or shadows of our hands) were visible, and duplicated frames where we felt there needed to be a pause.
We also learnt how to zoom in on a section, which helped us with a part of the film which jerked between two scenes as we moved the background too quickly.
Here's the final edit:

To finish the induction to Final Cut we were shown how to add text to make a title, here's the final film after I added the title:

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Seeing sound: In progress

Today I teamed up with Oliver and Jamie to create the basic material for our animation of an extract of the sound we chose.

Ollie suggested the sound reminded him of the ending of a favourite film of ours: The Dreamers (Bernado Bertolucci 2003)
In this scene Isabelle (Eva Green) attempts to gas the other two characters to death after their incestuous love triangle is discovered by her parents . This is irrelevant to our animation... until the scene collides with a clip from the 1963 French film Mouchette - "a tale of a young girl whose life is filled with tragedy".

We liked the idea of a girl rolling aimlessly down a hill so we borrowed it and thought, why not have her rolling up and down hills which emulate the sound waves in the screen capture we were working from. We used collage to make the hills and clouds and this was our experiment with moving the backdrop along and rolling the girl around.

Overall we were pleased with what we produced, but we ran into difficulties with the background moving too quickly and the character falling off the page. We rectified this by jumping to the start of each hill, which did not disrupt the smoothness of the motion too much, but meant the animation moves too quickly and is only about 8 seconds long.

Next week when we edit it to match the sound, we may try to double the speed so she rolls very slowly.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Seeing sound: initial ideas

Phonophani - Kvaale (the first track)

I have chosen this sound which for me evokes images of a slow journey home, trudging up a ladder or rolling down a hill.
It sounds exotic, dreamlike, and at times monotonous.

I have made some rough notes but will wait until I arrive tomorrow to start tranforming them into experiments.

In the meantime, I researched Phonophani. He is a Norwegian composer and his real name is Espen Sommer Eide. I found the following interesting videos:

Tuesday, 8 February 2011


The most moving and memorable documentary I have ever seen:

You can find it all on Youtube.


Basically I went on youtube for a while..
I tried to focus on music videos as we're starting the sound project

Music video for Pay TV - so bad they're good

Matthew Robins' Flyboy - amazing live

Toy Food - a silly song by (one of) the makers of Potter Puppet Pals

Jerry Jackson - my idol

T shirt war - me and my friend Beci wanted to do a similar one with facepaint, but never got round to it (yet)

Paper horse - only one sheet of paper, wow

The Knife, We share Our Mother's Health - their video for Like A Pen is good as well

Monday, 7 February 2011

Forkbeard animation school

Came across this while researching another project - more examples of amateur animations

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

'When did we lose our voices'

Here's what we made today.

Animation based on a newspaper article by me and Gracie

Monday, 31 January 2011

Research (via Blackboard)

I watched 5 of the recommended animations and wrote these mini reviews:

Federick Back has been winning awards for his simple animations since the early 1980s. I watched a few and they look like children's book illustrations that have come to life. Their naive, simplistic style lends itself well to stories about children playing and cosy family scenes. They remind me a bit of The Snowman.
Watch Crac! here

John Kelly uses a mixture of real objects, mixed media, and drawn images to illustrate the concept of 'Procrastination'. He effectively uses a monotone, human voice (presumably his own) and sound effects along with everyday examples, to create humour. I actually prefer 'The Seed' which combines simple drawings with folded paper in a simpler way than before, and doesn't rely on speech to tell the story.

Gili Dolev 's 9 minute long 'Happy Duckling' is a multi award-winning children's film about a boy and his duck. Though digitally animated, the characters and sets are made to look like they're made from paper and live inside a pop-up book. The characters control the set using tabs which I think is a novel idea and looks cute.

Nexus Productions is a site which showcases a variety of commercial animators' work.
My favourite is Jonas Odell who has made music videos for Franz Ferdinand and Goldfrapp. I also like Mighty Nice's 'kinetic typography' (a change of subject means a change in typography)
Watch them all here

Ferenc Cako uses sand to cleverly create simple scenes in front of the camera. He skillfully scatters sand from his hand to make dark areas then works quickly into it to create lines, destroying them with another wipe of his hand as soon as they are finished, to move onto the next scene. He manages to shift focus and 'zoom' in and out seamlessly to tell stories. This is not stop-motion in the strictest sense, it's really film, but I like it the most out of all these videos.

5 more coming soon...

Haunch of Venison/Nicholas Provost visit

On Friday we went to the Haunch of Venison gallery to see a small exhibition of work by video artist Nicholas Provost.
I hadn't heard of Provost before I went to the gallery, so it was interesting to go in with no knowledge about his work at all.
The gallery website calls says: His work is a reflection on the grammar of cinema and the relationship between visual art and the cinematic experience.

A piece that really stood out was the disturbing 'Long Live the New Flesh' which recycles gory scenes from well-know horror films (Alien, The Shining etc) and splices them together with disorientating and psychedelic moving pixels to create something truly disturbing.

Even scenes of more favourable subject matter (kissing scenes for example in 'Gravity') were unsettling as the 'stroboscopic' frames shifted too quickly for my eyes to focus on any one character, however I liked this film as the choice of 50s romantic film footage worked well.

The last piece I saw was 'Stardust' in which Provost imbues ordinary hidden-camera film footage of everyday scenes with intense drama by adding music and dialogue, making it seem like a crime story. This was an excellent piece to show how different sounds can transform visual material and I will make use of this idea when starting the first project.

MORE (Nicholas Provost's website)

What we did last week (week 1)

Everyone's first animations! Harriet, Grace and I made the Mr.Potato Head one (at 1.50)

and a 2d animation about a butterfly

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Week 1

Today we were introduced to the animation lab and the two different types of workstation:
the rostrum camera (for making 3D stop animation)
and the camera for 2D animations, linked directly to a computer/stop motion software.
This very simple software allowed us to try working with 'onion skinning' and timing.

We also watched some examples of work which the tutors liked and which other students found inspirational. My favourites were...

Little Dragon music video by Johannes Nyholm
I like the simplicity of this one; it focuses more on the story and less on the skill/technique involved in making an animation.
The puppets and scenery are so minimal but, along with the wafting backdrop, still manage to evoke a lot of emotion.

Oren Lavie music video (directed by Oren Lavie)
A lot of stop motion has been done with real people, enabling them to appear doing things usually impossible (flying etc). However, I think this one is particularly successful as it's interesting the whole way through and looks carefully considered e.g. when the model 'runs' it looks real; they must have looked at slowed-down film of people running. The video also works well as it's short, being a music video, and the lyrics/musical style match the visuals; the high number of views on youtube is testimony to this.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

My previous experience

...is quite limited. Here's the short stop-motion I made for my Christmas card project