Moving Image and Photography Rotation (Week beginning 30th September)

This week we were asked to in groups create a completed photographic/ moving image piece with the theme move. We started by brainstorming ideas originating from the word “move”.

From there we selected areas of this mind map we wanted to develop. Here are some of our early ideas:

“Globe Trotter” a man/woman walking around the top of a globe with the background changing to depict historic events over the past 100 years (or changing fashion) using a combination of pixilation and cut out. – although we liked this idea we felt that in the time available it would not be possible to create image we wanted, as we would have to make sacrifices in order to get it done on time.

Following an object’s journey like a coin or letter and the story of the object, using pixilation. We really liked this idea, and thought it would be interesting exploring not only the object’s journey but the people and places it interacts with, and although it would not be the typical sort of narrative it would still tell an interesting story. Again the only problem with this idea was that to do it justice we would need more time.

In the end we decided on the idea of migration, following the journey of a little bird that gets separated from its flock using sand or tea leaves on a light box. I thought that the narrative could be quite powerful even though it could be simple; I think there is something quite moving about the mass movement of birds, a show of togetherness and family. So with the little bird being separated the audience can immediately relate and empathise with the bird. Also using tea leaves on a light box it allowed us to really explore the narrative as the process was quite quick.

We researched “Anthroporphism” which is “the attribution of human being” as a possible progress and this reminded me of Animal Farm. If we had time it would have been great to explore this further creating bird/animal characters with human characteristics and problems. However I did think that this could become too cartoon like and we would lose the delicateness and simplicity of the tea leaves on the light box.

I liked the idea of the lost bird becoming a metaphor for something else. We also researched different types of birds and their migration patterns. We wanted the bird to be graceful in flight so we also studied their movements and how they appeared as a flock as we wanted to be able to create this accurately when animating them. When deciding what type of bird to use we took into consideration the aesthetics of the bird and how they appeared as a flock. We decided upon the barn swallow.

When deciding the direction the storyline would take we came up with the idea of the little bird being separated, then getting caught in a storm and when the storm passes the only thing you see is a single feather floating down the screen and coming to rest on the bottom of the screen. We really liked the idea of the feather at the end of the story; it created a sense of ambiguity “did the bird die?” “What happened in the storm?” However I felt that there was something missing in the story. “Why did the bird fly into the storm?” We storyboarded and came up with the idea that a bird of prey chases the little bird and its only escape is the storm.  This addition to the story only increased the number of question that would be left unanswered after the feather falls. As both the little bird and the bird of prey fly into the storm,  and  the fact there would be no scale to the feather asks the question “who’s feather was that?” I like the  idea of the audience having to answer these questions for themselves as in involves them more in the viewing process, and the story they create from what they have seen will be personal to them.  We also wanted to start the animation with a large shot of a bird, flying on its own, and then for it to morph into a whole flock, gradually.

We all decided to make the birds silhouettes, it seemed like the logical idea, and the simplicity lent itself to the delicate nature of the birds and the story. I drew numerous pictures of swallows in my sketchbook considering the angle of the bird in the shot.

We looked at the work of Ukraine’s got Talent Winner Kseniya Simonova, who did a sand animation depicting Germany conquering Ukraine in World War Two, the simplicity, softness and fluidity of the image coupled  with the story really creates powerful emotion that brought many of the audience to tears. Her work was so beautiful using only her hands as tools, I was amazed by the variety of marks and textures she could get out of the sand by just varying its density. This is something that I really considered when making our animation.

When it came to making our animation we started by making a stencil to get the basic shape of the swallow of the first scene, however the tea kept getting underneath the stencil so it was easier to do it free hand. We concentrated on getting the flaps of the wings accurate and thought that it was important for the rest of the body not to remain static. Once we got one convincing flap of the wings we created a loop to save time. However when animating the bird in one of the frames there is a light shining in the light box which repeats in each loop which alerts the viewer to the fact it’s a loop. Also the shape of the head changes between frames. Both all these things could be easily fixed if we had more time.

Next we separated portions of the bird off so it morphed in to the flock of birds, this is my favourite scene as I love the way the birds for from ambiguous shapes, smoothly imitating the grace of actual birds. The first scene took much longer than me expected and that is all we had completed by the end of Thursday. Knowing that we were limited with time we decided to omit a scene involving the little bird coming out of the storm and flying around disorientated in loops. We felt that this scene would have been quite time consuming as the tiniest of movements of the birds took several frames and  it was not that important in the storyline.

On Friday we had three scenes left, the first being the scene where the little bird is being chased by the bird of prey, the placement of the two birds was important and I think the way we did it works really well the larger bird looming above the little bird, creating a scene of power and imposing the size of the bird. This scene became continuous with the next scene of the storm. This is where our research into the sand artist Kseniya Simonova really became invaluable, watching the way she moved the sand to create effects, inspired and influenced us greatly when creating  the storm. We used the palm of our hand (so as not to create finger marks) the back of a spoon and a flat piece of card, to create the storm, the card gave us a chance to randomly move the tea leaves so as not to get unrealistic lines, by placing the piece of card flat on the tea and moving it around the light box with the palm of our hands. This  scene worked really well I liked how the two birds were engulfed by the tea, and the light coverage of the tea with patches of light and dark, created a realistic stormy atmosphere.

Finally we had the scene designed so that the feather would float down to the bottom of the page. We were running out of time so we decided to build up the image of the feather at the bottom of the screen instead. It looks quite good and it is the best we could do in the time but I do feel that the feather appears too quickly and that the scene would have been more effective how it was originally written.  We had a little time to spare after this so we decided to add some music, however after showing it to the rest of the class we decided that the music was not necessary and seeing as how it had not be written especially for the animation it was just distracting and misleading and did not add anything to the animation.

Overall I am really proud of our animation, and the whole process has taught me the importance of planning especially when working to a tight time scale. I was surprised how much we got done in the time available and I think that it is always important to be slightly ambitious in what you want to create as it makes the ideas more interesting and you can always compromise later if you need to. Having said that it is also important to be realistic, and working on this project has given me a good idea of what I can get done in the time provided.

Here is a link to our animation (please view with the sound off):


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