Tag: Masters

Research New Direction

I labelled this ‘new direction’, which is a little misleading because I am not taking my research in a new direction per say, just redefining what it is I am focusing on, and the best animation aesthetic to achieve this.

My heart has stayed with 3D since I first discovered it, way back two decades ago, and this is a thing that hasn’t changed. But the sharp focus of modern 3D characters didn’t feel authentic, or able to resonate with the message I want my animated documentary to achieve.

After spending what felt like weeks considering what voice I wanted to use, and what story I wanted to tell I finally recalled an audio recording I made of my Dad a few years back when he asked me to ghostwrite his autobiography. It was in this audio I found the thread to pull for my first animated sequence.

To start, I narrowed down the 30 minutes recording, highlighting one segment that I felt really illustrated how my father truly felt about his family being forced into a sedentary lifestyle.

Scientific Racism: Catalyst of a sedentary lifestyle

Dora Yates Scientific Racism
Acton, 2016

I have found academic writing that comments on the Hampshire councils stance on travellers in the 1960s, and how they used ‘scientific racism’ in academia to support their opinion that Gypsy’s should not be allowed to continue living a nomadic lifestyle and that this way of life was damaging somehow to the youth in the camps. Writings by a woman named Dora Yates conducted what she felt to be adequate research by going amongst the Travellers on the New Forrest and judging for herself that the pupils of the local school were not of Romany blood.

This study directly affected my family, and their way of life. While this essay touched on what happened to the Travellers, citing their forced move to the mud floor huts, it lacks the personal voice of the Romany and their experience of this internment.

As a child my Father recalls this time fondly, remembering how enjoyable it was to be with other children his age, he speaks of one time when toys were donated to the camp, and the children could have their pick of what was in the wardens back yard. But on reflection, when he starts to explain how they lived, and where the camp was situated it became obvious he hadn’t considered how terrible the living conditions were, and how wrong it was for the government to decide this way of life was better.

The negative effects of forcing Romany into a sedentary lifestyle far outweighed any perceived rightness of the act. The work families relied on to feed their children dried up, with so many with the same skill set stuck in once place, this caused many to think creatively to provide for their families. For my Father, being a young boy, the reality of the situation was hidden from him, my Grandparents worked hard to conceal how hard this new way of life was. They did their best to ensure that their children felt safe and secure, while the reality was a stark contrast.

Animated change

After cobbling together my 30-second sequence from my Dad’s story, I worked first on the sound design. I have learned over the years the this is an aspect of my work that I have neglected. With my Dad’s story being the central point I wanted to place the most importance on what the viewer will hear. It is from here that I launched my ideation of the look and feel. I knew that I wanted to use 3d animation, but not in a conventional way. I want my film to tactile, and grungy in a way that reflects the ex-prisoner of war camp my family were moved to. I want to capture the despair of having autonomy over your life taken from you, while also capturing the closeness of family ties.

Rubbish Dump Gypsy Character ideation
Rubbish Dump Gypsy character ideation

It was fairly obvious to me, that from this point on that I could not rely on any of the 3D character rigs I have available to me. (both paid and free rigs) I need my animation to maintain its authenticity, and to do this I will need to create all the characters within it. Above is the first iteration of my Romany family, based on photos of family members. to capture this textural landscape I want all the characters to have the feel of a hand made toy, something that Romany children might have made and played with.

Faceless doll inspiration

Faceless Doll Ideas
Faceless Doll Ideas 

I am investigating the idea of dolls without faces, my reasoning for my characters in this sequence having no mouth is symbolic of having their voice taken away from them. These travelling families had no choice but to move into the camps. The government worked systematically to close down stopping places until they were all funnelled into the same camps. There was no way for them to speak out against how unjust this was. Couple this with the general distant and mistrust of travellers they genuinely had no voice to counter the argument for the sedentary mandate. (I need to confer with my research and add some linking academic papers) The representation of Romany and Travellers still very present today, in social media, news media, entertainment, academia, and in our own homes. There is even misunderstanding within my own race, which is bound to happen when we have all be labelled under one umbrella term, despite our diverse histories which is why my characterisation here is so important.

I am looking at the history of dolls such as the Waldorf Doll, The Haudenosaunee ‘No  Face doll’, Hayao Miyazaki animated character Kanoshi (No face) from Spirited Away, and Motanka, Traditional Ukrainian Doll as a foundation for my own no face doll.

 

From this, I have created my first character, Little John. This is the first iteration, I have run into several issues along the way, and with each version have created something closer to what I have visioned in my head. I have used a combination of Maya to create the base mesh, and Zbrush to create the textural detail. Using a combination of bump and displacement maps I can convey a layered, and complex character, that feels real, in the medium of 3D.

Little John character sheet
Little John character sheet
Beef Eater Character Sheet
Beef Eater Character Sheet
Beefy 3D character
Beefy 3D character
Beefy and LJ 3d Character
Beefy and LJ 3d Character
LJ 3D character
LJ 3D character
LJ 3D character
LJ 3D character
LJ, Beefy and Vardo 3D Character
LJ, Beefy and Vardo 3D Character
LJ, Beefy and Vardo 3D Character
LJ, Beefy and Vardo 3D Character
Beefy 3D character
Beefy 3D character
Beefy 3D character
Beefy 3D character
LJ wip
LJ wip
LJ wip
LJ wip
LJ wip
LJ wip

 

I still have a lot of characters to design and create, but seeing these first two have really filled me with joy and a renewed sense of purpose. I decided on reflection of my first iteration to include eyes with my Romany travellers. They are silent observers of what was happening to them. This was also an aesthetic choice, as having no ideas left me with an underlying sense of dread.

At this stage, I am working on rigging them with Rapid Rig, and ensuring I can animate them in a way that conveys the emotion that this piece needs.  I’ll be back later to upload some animation tests. Below is the first test from Beefy before I changed the rigging structure. The new rig means I have greater control over this body, and means I can also animate this hat.

 

 

Acton, Thomas A. ‘Scientific Racism, Popular Racism and the Discourse of the Gypsy Lore Society’. Ethnic & Racial Studies 39, no. 7 (June 2016): 1187–1204. https://doi.org/10.1080/01419870.2015.1105988.

Buzz words and animated practice

Week 1
24/2/2020-1/3/2020

This week marked my first supervision meeting with Greg, and the completion of my first draft of my ethics application. During this meeting we discussed the different options going forward with my ethics consideration and that before my next meeting I will have the first draft of my narrative that will drive my animated documentary forward.

Over the past few weeks, I have spent some time thinking about just what my project will look like. While my main intent is to create a piece that explores the identity of New Zealand Romany, my Master’s focus is a personal journal, and my final animated documentary will reflect this.

An issue that I keep running into is maintaining a narrow path for my research to follow. I naturally want to fly down roads that open the scope up to a PhD level amount of work, so keeping this in mind, I am focusing on 3 to 4 in-depth interview with willing participants of the Romany community.

To reach these participants I will distribute an online survey via survey monkey, in which I will give them the information regarding what my project is about, ask about their connection to being Romany, and if they would be willing to have a discussion with me.

I do not intend to include what they say in my final work, but rather how what I learned has shaped my own thinking.

During the break, I worked on some different animation techniques. I still haven’t come up with the look and feel of my animation, so currently I am still practising. I do really enjoy Chuck Jones’ The Dot and the Line, and how the animation flows easily from one scene to the next. I’ve placed it below so those reading this can see what I mean.

My own hand-drawn animation isn’t anywhere near as good as Chuck’s, so I will be considering how I can create something like this with my own limited skill.

Below are some of the animations I have been practising with.

Some other ideas I have been playing with is the concept of somehow incorporating traditional Romany art styles, like the painted wagons, or the rag carpets that my own Granny taught me to make. Romany heritage is a hodgepodge of cultures, much like how offcuts from rags and be bought together to create something beautiful.

I need to pick one theme to weave though my narrative, a metaphor of sorts, I’m not quite sure what this will be yet, but this overarching story is starting to take shape in the peripheral.

Below are some ‘buzz’ words that strike a chord with me, are threads I want to keep my mind as I pull my story together.

“Tactile, Rug, patchwork, DNA, Sum of all our parts”