Category: The Animated Documentary

The Siren Situation – The final animation!

Plastered around my desk and home is a quote by Nelson Mandela, ‘It always seems impossible, until it’s done.’ this is a quote that keeps me sane when I feel like I will never complete a project or figure a problem out.

This animation was a hard slog to start with, I kept saying all I needed was that one good idea, and guess what, I was right. It came just as I was committing to creating my animated documentary in 2d, using Adobe After Effects.

After a conversation with my lecturer Miriam I decided to dedicate a few days to try it out in a 3D space. It didn’t take long to realise that is what this story was missing. Which led me down a path of modelling an entire school set, complete with 3d corrugated cardboard. (which took a lot longer than I anticipated.

After a short fight with the Autorig in Maya I rigged my characters with Rapid Rig, which although took time to learn how to use, it was time well spent. It is a LOT easier to animate with a good rig! I have to admit to wishing I had spent a bit more time with the skin weight painting, but I have to keep reminding myself, it’s cardboard, you can get away with a few broken polygons. Sadly the perfectionist in me is screaming FIX IT!

I am also grateful to my tutor Hossein who taught us how to use Substance Painter. Although I am still quite the novice I already see how useful it is to have a photoshop type product that allows you to paint on a 3d surface.

I am looking forward to employing my new found skills in a new project over summer, I’ve got my thinking cap on. I will also be looking for some work experience before next year, not just to work towards the 60 hours we have to do as part of year three, but also for my own personal and professional development.

So without further ado, here it is! My very first animated documentary. The wheels in my head are already turning about what my next one can be about.


Below is the ‘Making of’ video.

Production Schedule – Animated Doco

Yes, it’s crucial that I stay on top of the time line process to make sure that I complete this animation on time for hand in. The due date for this is Wednesday 25th October, so I have 44  Days   — or —   6  Weeks and  2  Days. (Thanks, Day counter!)

Week One: Complete production schedule, at least half of the assets I will need to complete animation. Polish off the audio, make sure girls audio levels match, and add sound effects. Add the extra scene of the kids running past an open door and teacher looking out of the door to animatic. Down load the DUIK After Effects Plug in. Check out the Lynda tutorial on this. (DUik Rigging & Animating. Reflect on the strength of my own work.
Here are some links on how to use the Duik plug in – How to rig – Duik ik animation in After Effect Getting started  Lynda tutorial. – Facial Rigging.

Week Two: Complete the rest of the assets and start blocking out animation. Make sure that I have the comic book speech bubbles to work with my animation.

Week Three: Continue with animating.  Book time for the green screen for next week (Tues or Wens).

Week Four: Continue with animating, compositing, colour grading etc. Kids go on holiday this week so I will organise a time to bring them int of film on the green screen.

Week Five: Rendering and final compositing of visual and audio.

Week Five: Contingency plan, this week is the buffer to make sure that every thing is complete.

This is all subject to change, of course, there is a high chance I have missed heaps out!!!

The Animated Doco – The Siren Situation, Animatic

I’m happy with the over all aesthetic of this, but I’m just not sold on the ending. But in the interest of not getting too far behind with Motion Capture,

I am going to put this on the back burner for a bit and hope that I can smooth it out a bit when I come back to it.

Reflection on my work so far:

1.  Is the meaning/message of the sequence clear? Why/why not?
I do think that the meaning of this is quite clear, but the end part seems to be a bit weak (to me anyhow) I plan on strengthening this by adding another scene before the girls turn into super hero, adding the kids running past an open door and then a teacher poking their head out of the door to investigate what is going on.

2.  Are there areas that seem too fast/too slow? Why? How could these be corrected?
As mentioned above the end of the sequence seems a bit flat after the drama of the chase and wrestle. I have considered adding a scene, but I also think I might go back to the audio and see if there is something else that can be added.

3.  Are we hearing or seeing too much, or too little? Are there areas that could be pared down, or pauses that could be inserted for a breathing space? Are there gaps in information that need to be filled in?
I need to add in a few more cuts, such as over the shoulder shot  after the boy cuts the wire, she shouts stop and the boy looks down at an angry Violette.

4.  Is the sequence sufficiently interesting? Do we get involved? What kind of adjustments can be made to increase the degree of interest? For instance, could we consider making changes to: the proposed visual style, the characters/elements depicted, the emotional tone – poetic/humorous/action-paced/light and breezy/contemplative etc.? Why? Would the changes communicate meaning in the way that you want, or would they introduce new dilemmas?
I believe these changes would strengthen the narrative by adding more context to the interchange between the girls and the boys trying to steal the speaker.

Animated Doco – Synopsis’s

Synopsis One: At this point, I was still going with the name ‘The school speaker’ mostly because Erynn had referred to it as a speaker, but it turns out that it’s a fire siren.


Synopsis Two: this synopsis is more in line with how the vision for my animated documentary is going to take shape. It also has a new name after some brain storming with the girls.  The Siren Situation 

Animated Doco – Recording the Audio and subsequent idea segway.

So it’s taken a bit of turn since having to actually set up an interview with the girls. I recorded 25 minutes of them talking but there was a lot of silliness and talking over each other, plus me being at a sheer loss over how to narrow it down to 40 seconds, so on a whim I got my 11-year-old to come and talk to me for five minutes (yes I had to bribe him) he spoke about Minecraft, which isn’t a huge surprise but it was nice to get his take on why he likes it too much, so it’s definitely another idea to follow.

I couldn’t really get the girls to talk about the fiasco with the speakers getting stolen at school, which is ok, so I will have a re-listen to what we have and see if there are any threads I can pull.

More research, Minecraft  focused

In the interest of following an idea for the Minecraft, I have watched a few different Minecraft animation.

Here is a compilation of the Top 5 Minecraft Animations of 2015, some of which are really good! Taking the block approach to the next level. I really liked the use of lighting in some of them and also making the characters seem more human than in the game.

There is some great use of animation principles in some of them which were great to see in a blocky animation.

I can totally see how this could be used in somehow to create an animated documentary about why my 11-year-old loves Minecraft so much.

I also saw this advert on Facebook the other day and I really liked it, so I took a screen shot so I could look it up later. I couldn’t find this exact advert so I’m glad I had a photo of it! I liked the cut-out planets and a rocket ship.

Beautiful Animation

I also really like this Step into a miniature world of animated paper wildlife short film on the national geographic YouTube page. I love the origami and the integration of real world disaster with something that is happening on the desk.

The lighting, story and modelling tell a fascinating story that kept me watching until the end. The characters and setting interweaved in and out bringing you into the story of the characters and then reminding you of the settings in an effective way. The camera angles used were well staged and there was a good use of depth of field.

Giangrande – Paper Plane

I love the textural feel of this animation and the way the hand-drawn has been incorporated into the animation. After a while you stop thinking ‘oh this is hand drawn’ and instead you are drawn into the narrative. This music video is well constructed in a narrative sense and is a great example of how you can the analogue approach to animation and apply it in a digital sense.

Excellent 2d cut out sequence

I really love how the cut-out effect flows in this short sequence. I partially like the way each cut out is made from something else, I wonder if I can use this to include some of the girl’s artwork.



Next up, the mood boards, in which there are many .. so many.

The Animated Documentary – The Idea Stage

As part of the requirement of this assignment, I have to keep a visual diary, which I do anyhow in a ‘real life’ book I will also keep it here. I actually started this in a word document with the caveat that I would put it here too if I could figure out why my WordPress was giving me the white screen of death in the admin section (news flash, it a broken plugin).

I have actually had this idea in my head for a while, to record my 7-year-old twins talking and animated a segment, so I guess it stands to reason that this is the first thing I would think of when given the assignment to animate a documentary. In the interest of covering all basis’s I will be coming up with a few alternative ideas, such as interviewing my Father about experience of being a Romany Gypsy, my Mother in laws quilt group, my husband’s job as an IT professional,  my sister’s job as a high school teacher, how my son feels about having Asperger’s and ADHD.

I decided to focus on someone in my immediate family group, as I know they will be willing participants. Mostly though, I want to talk to my twins about a situation that happened in their school at the end of the last term.  My girls it seems are crime stoppers. They caught a group of 11 and 12-year-old boys stealing speakers from outside their class room and managed to chase them off and provide information that leads directly to the boys being identified, and dealt with. Here are some other questions I will be asking them: What is like being a twin, what is a bully, what do you do if someone is bullying you, tell me about Cub Scouts.
Here are a few notes that I wrote in my physical journal about ideas that I have been generating. I love the idea of also including the girl’s art work in some way.

My girls may be twins, but they both have a very distinct style when it comes to their art work and how they express them selves. If I got ahead with this idea then I would like to incorporate that individualism into my animation as both girls talk.

The top two images are drawn by Violette, who loves reading, writing, and mathematics, the bottom two are drawn and created by Erynn, who says she hates reading and writing but loves to create art work, draw and colour.

Violette’s art work tends towards the two dimensional with written subtitles. Erynn likes to use the scissors to create 3d works of art, she uses a lot of mixed medias and has a very interesting take on the use of perspective.

Resources looked at: 

Part of the creative process is watching other animated documentaries in an effort to identify styles that we liked and methods used.

After watching the suggested documentary and personal narratives, I made the following notes what aspects I liked:

Baba, by Joel Kefali – Painterly, great transitions, painted look, always I motion, childlike, use of typography to emphasise mispronounced words. The simple block colouring tied the story together without confusing the eye.

Coi Army Learning – Why Not Associates – White board look, hand drawn, great transitions.

Storm Whale, Moth Collective – Nice texture and feel

The Wiki Man, Moth Collective – Loose animation style, animated word, not overly complicated or confusing, not too much to look at, vision not confused, I liked it, the idea of rebranding potatoes.

Sarah’s Story, Moth Collective – Childlike drawings, but not childlike, the view reflects Sarah’s feelings and thoughts rather than focusing on the story she is telling about what happened to her. Its meaning was much more metaphorical. Every day is a gift.


My Mothers Coat, Marie-Margaux Tsakiri-Scanatovits – I like the sound effects in the background, the simple lines. This is possibly rotoscoped. The lines were minimal as were the use of colour. Life should be a walk you share, share everything, do not waste time. I found something mesmerising in this.

Liars need a good memory, James Heredia – Collage, paint, digital. Nice integration of video and collage.

Keona + Chantelle – The Wrong Trainers, Arthur Cox Animation – I LOVE the cardboard box cut-outs and childlike drawings. I really love the child perspective in this animation; how they tell about the time, she fell out the window and described how far she fell. I like the way the children talk about their parents, and how they want to help them. ‘Small crushed up houses”
And in the interest of not spending the rest of the day copying links and posting the other pictures that I promise are in the word document here are some other animations I watched:

A is for Autism, Tim Webb – Childlike, hand drawn, dealing with a subject matter important to me as I have an autistic child and brother, I like the integration of the live action and animation.

Asperger’s Syndrome – Stop Motion. Music Matters, Nick Cave – Really love the line drawing and use of typography.

This Land is Mine, Nina Paley – I like the simple vector like graphics used in this animation, I also like how it feels as if it is portrayed as platform shoot’em up game.

Mound, Allison Schulnik – Pencil titles, simple uniform colour pallet, great depth of field, all characters are similar, but yet unique.

A-Z Clip, Sarah Cox – Great childlike perspective. Cut out, paper texture, some great transitions and cuts.

Oregonian ‘Transformation’ Bent Image Lab – I like the origami look and the fact that they took a newspaper and turned it into something else.

Lesley Barnes Herzog and the Monsters, GSA DDS MDes Animation – I like the cut out feel, almost like it could be a pop-up book. The incorporation of typography and books, and the 3d effect created with a drop shadow. I like the interesting perspective.

Shofar, JNFA Dancing Diablo – I like the hand drawn doodles circling the live action.

Creative Freedom, John Kelly – Great integration of live action and 3d, and hand-drawn.

Back to the start, John Kelly – Cute 3d animations, really love the way the camera pans from left to right as the buildings are created. Surprisingly moving, but I suspect it has a lot to do with the emotive music too. The models are very textural, which grounds them. Despite the non-organic shapes.

Josh Pyke middle of the hill video – I liked the cutout view and the integration of the live action with the animation.

The Thomas Beale Cipher, Andrew S Allen – Integration of newsprint, fabric, collage, and live action, textures used to create animation.

Pam’s advertisement, AssemblyLtd – I really like the use of texture in this adverts, the way the 3d models have been almost flattened, lots of Kiwiana.

Next up, recording the audio! Check out the next blog post for more on this.