Monday, 30 September 2013

Minor Project: Idea Revisions and Draft Screenplay of Act One

Idea Revisions and Draft Screenplay of Act One

I spent most of today bouncing between phases of confusion and frustration as I struggled to wrangle my idea for an animated short. After a good couple of hours of pestering and debating with Phil, I managed to derive something that I could use as a jumping off point. I've attempted to slimline the whole concept, stripping it back to something simpler that requires a lot less explanation. 

Here is a very rough act by act summary of the revised structure.

Act One
Characters meet in a room inhabited by discarded outdated and redundant technology.
A 'Boy' and a 'Girl' (Although not strictly gender specific)
The 'Boy' is already present, the 'Girl' is introduced. Possibly through means of a delivery chute or something similar.
Shown as incompatible through means of specified hardware differences. Data storage through cassette tapes versus compact discs.
'Boy' character older technology, uses cassette tapes, speaks through mechanical whirring and squeaking.
'Girl' character newer technology, uses compact discs, speaks through dial tone, computer prompts and error noises.
'Boy' notices 'Girl', chooses to befriend.

Act Two
Frustration and miscommunication
'Boy' attempts to communicate with 'Girl', words are instead replaced with a series of mechanical noises and the creaking of an old cassette player.
'Girl' is unable to understand, attempts to respond through a series of digitized tones and audio.
Both 'Boy' and 'Girl' are unable to understand one another.
Obstacle 01 'Boy' attempts to use a found tape of recorded human dialogue to communicate. The tape is inserted, but as he begins to communicate, the tape fails and begins to unspool.
Obstacle 02 'Boy' attempts a form of charades, confusing the 'Girl'. Ends up becoming tangled in wiring, falling over and out of shot.

Act Three
'Boy' finds a collection of outdated cassette tapes (How? consciously sought after or mistakenly stumbled upon? fall on top of him, tripped over etc)

Cassette tapes are used as a primitive mixtape, being played and rewound in order to form coherent sentences.
A relationship is sparked by the newly established common language of music, something that both characters can understand and relate to.

I have also put together the screenplay for Act One, to provide a clearer idea of the general presentation of the story that I have in mind.

'Incompatibility' (Working Title) Version 01



PAN across the room, from right to left. A plethora of outdated and redundant electronic equipment from throughout the 20th Century litters the shelves, from floor to ceiling. 
The camera slows to a stop, displaying a lone, battered MALE ROBOT, half buried under a collection of electronic components. The MALE ROBOT functions through a series of CASSETTE TAPES, used for DATA STORAGE. These tapes are inserted into a TAPE DECK situated in the MALE ROBOT'S chest.

The MALE ROBOT begins to sit up, adjusting itself to its surroundings as if it were waking from a deep sleep.

A metallic rattling is heard, as the camera CUTS to a disposal chute of sorts in the ceiling. A hatch swings open as a FEMALE ROBOT tumbles through, landing in a pile of electronic junk with a hefty crash. The FEMALE ROBOT is far more MODERNISED than the MALE ROBOT, using COMPACT DISCS for DATA STORAGE.

As the FEMALE ROBOT hits to ground, miscellaneous junk and trash is cast up, burying the newly awakened MALE ROBOT once again.

The MALE ROBOT sits up once again, unearthing itself from beneath yet more junk and misc electronics. 

POV of the MALE ROBOT, as he casts his eyes upon the FEMALE ROBOT, picking herself up and dusting herself off.

Stunned, the MALE ROBOT hoists himself up promptly in an attempt to play it cool, unsure whether the FEMALE ROBOT knows he is there or not.

The FEMALE ROBOT turns to see the MALE ROBOT stood across from her on the other side of the room. The MALE ROBOT waves, somewhat shyly, greeting the FEMALE ROBOT. Somewhat confused, the FEMALE ROBOT waves back doubtfully.

Any and all feedback would be greatly appreciated at this early stage.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Minor Project: Reevaluating My Project

Reevaluating My Project

After my tutorial with Phil on friday, I left feeling the need to reevaluate my ideas and discover what I really, really wanted to get out of this project. I have a real problem of inflating my ideas to the point where they become unrealistic and unmanageable, and the purpose of this post is to begin to distill and refine the more appealing ideas I've got to work with.

What Do I Want to Get Out of this Project?

Being that this is the more or less the moment the last two years have been building up to, I want to treat it as so. By this I mean I want to create something that is both cinematically compelling from a storytelling perspective, as well as technically challenging, requiring me to adapt and learn new skills in order to achieve this. For more or less every project up until now, I've found myself conforming to a very linear, safe path, as a means of appeasing some non-existent entity I feel I must satisfy. I've had periods where my work has drifted from this path, but ultimately, it always drifts back. I want to force myself to break from this path and create something that I would enjoy watching, as well as enjoy creating. Its taken me two years to realise that after all, I'm doing this for myself and nobody else, and now is the perfect time to put this epiphany to good use.

What Sort of Project Do I Really Want to Do?

Taking into account what I want to get out of this project, I want to develop something with a strong narrative background, as well as something that really requires me to flex my CG muscles and generate something that I'm genuinely proud to have created. This proposed outcome tends to push me in the direction of an animated short, reinforced by a refined screenplay and an art direction that compliments the nature of the story, as well as my (somewhat vague) personal style. Going by my preferences and successes in past projects, I would ideally want to work on a project with my focus and attention spread more or less evenly across pre-production and production, with as much care taken with the story and design side of things as much as the CG aspects. In the past, my focus has fluctuated as a result of a waining attention span and impatience around certain areas of the production pipeline, especially if I'm struggling to understand what my project actually is (see my Adaptation project as a good example of this).

When it comes to deciding what sort of project I really want to do, I need to look back at the aspects of past projects which felt effortless, in the sense that I was so immersed in the project that it didn't feel like I was working at all. The projects that immediately stand out include our Pre-Vis project, hand drawn animation, the Uncanny and elements of the Narrative, Adaptation and Character Design projects. That sounds like a lot, but I've cherry picked the best bits to get an idea of what I think I'll enjoy most when it comes to working on this project.

With Pre-Vis, I had the most fun reconfiguring and rewriting my various story ideas, conforming to the restrictions of the three given elements. This project at no point felt like a chore to me, which came as a surprise to me when I mainly spent my time writing, throwing out and rewriting the same story over and over. Hand drawn animation was tedious and particularly crippling for my arthritic fingers, but the tedium was unusually relaxing. Getting to that point where everything falls into place and you can just work and work and work is something that I really want to get right with this project. My entire second year was inhabited by perpetual stress, because at no point did I feel as though I was heading in the right direction and that I had full control of my project. I want to avoid that sensation this time around. Uncanny was another project where stress was minimal. At no point in the project did it feel like a chore to me, it was just good fun watching this singular thing develop into something I was incredibly proud of at the time. It feels as though the projects where I'm having fun are the ones where the outcome is most rewarding. When it came to my second year, I was more or less constantly in a state of stress and anxiety. I never felt as though I had a grip on my projects, everything was just chaos. Although, there were elements that I really, really enjoyed, specifically when it came to character design and modelling. The entire process of character modelling, from concept through modelling and texturing, all the way to rigging and eventually animating, was fun to me. It was the only time I found myself getting up at stupid o-clock in the morning and actually cracking on with something. It was also one of the few things that could hold my attention for a considerable amount of time when I was working on campus, which in itself, is quite an achievement.

So, after that hefty analysis, a summary is in order. By the looks of things, my ideal project would be:

  • Story and Concept Driven
  • Linear in Its Development, Following a Concise and Manageable Pipeline
  • Built Around and Influenced by My Interests, But In a Way that Doesn't Destroy Them in the Process
  • Takes Full Advantage of the Aspects of Production I Enjoy (and Could See Myself Developing into a Career)

This reevaluated perspective will have an affect on the ideas I had already established, which I will address in a follow up post to this one. I aim to restructure the more prominent ideas around my new outlook, using the above summary as somewhat of a checklist to make sure the ideas will fit my newly established preferences. This restructuring may result in a complete change in format for some of my ideas (for example, shifting an idea for an animated short so that it is more focused and becomes more of a character design or environment modelling project, for example).

Friday, 27 September 2013

Minor Project: Early Project Ideas

Early Project Ideas

With the summer holidays out of the way, it's about time I got the ball rolling on some ideas for my minor project. Whilst I didn't get a huge amount done from a practical perspective over the last god knows how many months, I did get into the habit of scribbling down obscure ideas whenever they struck, with the possibility of using them to develop something interesting and fun during my final year on the course.

The following are some of the more compelling ideas, with varying levels of development and complexity. 

Idea One

"When a curious robot loses his ability to speak, he must find alternative methods of making new friends."
Made naturally redundant by the evolution and advancement of technology, a household general purpose robot sits in the dust-riddled, sunbleached window of an electronics shop. Up until ten years prior, the robot was top of the line, sporting various impressive features for the time, but nothing more impressive than its ability to communicate. The robot was the first of its kind to be able to speak, through way of a series of prerecorded cassette tapes. These cassette tapes were filled with various snippets of dialogue and they were used as a primitive means of communication between the robot and any human they may be interacting with. Although, this method of communication was soon phased out when the cassette tapes were found to be unreliable, spontaneously unspooling and leaving the robot unable to communicate in any way, as well as consumers recording customised cassette tapes, making the licensed prerecorded tapes unnecessary and ultimately costing the company a considerable amount of money. This method was replaced with a more simplified and reliable digital expression system, as seen in newer models, resulting in the robot being only seen and not heard.
Out of nowhere, a new electronics store appears across the street, directly opposite. A banner with "Coming Soon!" is strewn across the window, as rolling advertisement plays on a television screen beside it. The next day, the robot is awaken by the bright, fluorescent light of the new store to see one of these newer models stood, motionless, in the window. Out of both curiousity and lonliness, the robot leaves the confines of his small shopfront and crosses the street, under cover of darkness. He gradually approaches the window, staring intently at the monitor playing the looping advertisement. The robot discovers this new model communicates through an alternate method to him, through means of visual, digital expressions, although being that he is an older model, this is all gibberish to him.
He moves in closer to the monitor, but is startled when a head moves into view. The newer model has awoken and is equally as curious. The newer model makes an attempt to communicate using their alternate method of communication, but the older model is unable to decipher what is being said. In response, the older model begins to play his 'Greetings' cassette tape, and as luck would have it, the newer model begins to understand! Unfortunately, this only goes so far, as the cassette tape characteristically unspools into a mass of wirey tape and ejects onto the floor. The robots stare at one another blankly, until the older robot has an epiphany. He sprints back into his shop, leaving the newer model looking perplexed and unsure of what is happening. The older model returns with a satchel filled to the brim with various cassette tapes. The older robot begins to rifle through them, pulling out tape after tape. The tapes are revealed to be compilations of various music from various time periods and eras. The older model attempts to assemble snippets of dialogue from various lyrics found in the different songs, as a means of communication.

This project, depending on the scale of the story, would likely transition across both my minor and major projects. I would like the time to design, model and animate everything with an equal amount of attention, as opposed to my previous projects where various aspects have been neglected in favour of others. I would aim to develop a two-five minute animation, although this is entirely dependent on the story and what it will require in terms of design and construction. Constructing a conherent and original screenplay is also compelling to me, as I've not really had the chance to spend a fair amount of time on a slightly more elaborate screenplay with a more cinematic three-act structure until now.

Idea Two

An animated adaptation of Baz Luhrmann's Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen).
This song was produced by Baz Luhrmann for his adaptation of William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. The dialogue is taken directly from an article titled Advice, Like Youth, Probably Wasted on the Young written by Mary Schmich for the Chicago Tribune in 1997. It is written from the perspective of the author if she was to give a commencement speech to a class of students soon to graduate. Because of this, whenever I listen to the song, I hear it as if it were being presented by the principal of an 1980's high school, which is the direction I would likely take it if I were to adapt it. He would be inspired by such iconic principal characters as Principal Vernon from The Breakfast Club and Principal Rooney from Ferris Bueller's Day Off. I would open the animation with the principal stepping on stage, with a stereo in hand. He would begin the speech, presenting normally until the music starts to play, where he would press play on the stereo and continue to dictate. As the speech continues, the principal would gradually transition from a stiff, generic lecture to a more dynamic and upbeat display of enthusiasm. His gestures would reflect the lyrics, as they would naturally when you attempt to visualise a spoken concept to an audience.  

The entire project would be primarily a study of animation, with a single character in front of a simple backdrop, supported by interaction with simple props. The purpose of the project would be to focus almost strictly on the animation of one character, cutting back the time spent on modelling characters and environments that I have usually focused on in the past.

Idea Three

What would happen if when staring into bright light, the flecks in vitreous humour aren't that at all, but a minor tear into an alternate reality, sat neatly behind our own? Same with the scratches on camera film, they are remnants of the alternate reality being projected onto a captured still image. This is the conspiracy that has been uncovered by a child who neglected all advice around sun exposure.
After viewing an eclipse at school without the proper glasses, Max stumbled upon a secret kept hidden by the constant advice from teachers and parents alike that he must definitely never, ever look directly at the sun.

This project, depending on the scale of the story, would likely transition across both my minor and major projects. I would like the time to design, model and animate everything with an equal amount of attention, as opposed to my previous projects where various aspects have been neglected in favour of others. I would aim to develop a two-five minute animation, although this is entirely dependent on the story and what it will require in terms of design and construction. Constructing a conherent and original screenplay is also compelling to me, as I've not really had the chance to spend a fair amount of time on a slightly more elaborate screenplay with a more cinematic three-act structure until now.

Idea Four

An animated adaptation of Edward Gorey's The Gashlycrumb Tinies.
The Gashlycrumb Tinies is an illustrated storybook that tells the tale of 26 children and their untimely deaths through a series of rhyming couplets. The book gets its humour from the ridiculous nature of the various deaths, taking what should typically be a taboo and unsettling topic and turning it on its head. If I were to adapt this, I would likely have the poem read out and recorded by a voice actor, with each page being another vignette. The number of characters would be a challenge, but as with the book, I would likely make a generic 'Boy' and 'Girl' model, and modify them with alternate textures and accessories. A similar method of subtle duplication would be applied to the environments also.

Idea Five

A commuter gets on a bus. The noise of the surrounding area is as normal. They take a seat, a larger passenger sits beside them, squashing them into a corner. The commuter struggles to reach into his pocket, pulls out a Walkman and puts the headphones on. Listening to music, the passengers movements and interactions begin to synchronise with the music, loosely at first, but then gradually perfectly in sync, before surpassing it, and eventually their movements lead the music. The animation is carried by the commuter changing tapes, making both slight and drastic alterations to the actions and appearances of the passengers, whilst the commuted constantly remains the same.