Friday, 6 May 2011

End of Year Show!

After the disaster that was Glossop Trip I spent the following Easter holidays refining my wor, reshooting and editing parts of the film and fleshing out the development. I had decided for my show that I wanted to show my film on a plinth and then have the phoenix puppet hung around it as if it was a contextual frame. I didn't really want to fill walls with images of my work because most of it is referenced in the film anyway.
When I got my space however there was a lot of wall space. I carried on with my original idead, hanging my phoenix puppet with fishing wire from a plank and then sticking it to the plinth, with wire in it's hem to add strength and support to the wings. However, it did look very bare and after a nudging from my tutor on the last day I decided to put up 3 white shelves and on them display my dragon puppet, horse puppet and my butterflies in jars.
I chose this items because they were in the best state from the film (except the wax horse was broken and had to be fixed) and they also had the muted colours that I think blended them all together well. The actual putting up of the show was very stressful as there were many technical parts with hanging thigns that had to be tweaked and adjusted but ultimately it was finished, I was happy with it and I actually enjoyed the week with everyone milling about helping each other out.

Glossop Trip

The day of the Glossop trip came. I had my bird puppet made and my film done to a showable standard (but with tweaks needed before exhibition time). The morning was planned to be flying kites on the moors in honour of Ludwig Wittgenstein's Glossop Flying School and we had to bring something to fly. However, due to spending far too much time on my puppet and film I had no time to make a kite and so had to make one on the coach. This meant my kite was a Metro newspaper with my Red Riding off cuts attached to wool to create ribbons. Admittedly, not my finest hour.
The actual flying was fun, however, and it was great to see people's kites who had actually used this as a project and had made weird and wonderful kites.
In the afternoon was when we were supposed to be doing our performances and as I needed a table on stage to hide me while puppeteering, it was decided that I would go first and so got ready and in position... but the film never came on for me to start.
This was a big learning curve for, to never trust a Mac. Or, more to the point, check that you have your film saved in the right file format and none of the three I did save it in actually work. This of course meant I had to leave without doing my performance or showing my film, but the work would not be wasted as now I would display it all in my end of year show...

Bird Puppet

After my mid-year review I was convinced to continue with the original plan to have a live puppet performance alongside with the showing of my film. It was going to go along the same line of having a phoenix born on stage and then flying before being set on fire, however, this time I would have the brd perched on a table and the wings flying behind it.
If it was to fit in a papier mache egg then I knew it must be quite flexible so I made a latex base for the head which I stitched to a cloth sleeve where my hand could go manoeuvre the head. For the feathers, I tested a variety of methods such as cutting them from paper, making them with string and making them from wire. To create a base coverage I went with the idea of cutting them froms trips of paper, using a fabric feeling paper I purchased from a craft shop in Chinatown. The strips I cut from this were then stitched to the main body of the bird.
To build on this I bought spray cans to cover it. The colours I chose were blue and burgundy that when mixed created a purple colour and I chose these because I wanted the phoenix to look regal as it is a mystical bird and I always associate these colours wit this idea. I also chose to use spray cans as I think its has the ability to be soft and add hundreds more tones to the object than a paintbrush could and I really wanted the feathers to look like they shimmer.
To add to the shimmering effect I also used the tooling foil I used for the dragon puppet to emboss feather shapes and add to the body. This was from a performance point of view as hopefully the little shrapnels of metal will catch the light and glisten onstage. To continue this trend I also made the beak from tooling foil. Originally it was to be a long, stork-like beak from latex but this looked more comical than anything so I changed it to a more parrot inspired look. The tooling foil for the beak was also helpful as it was sturdy and had little friction between the hinges.
Also to make the puppet more interesting from an audience point of view was to use paper wrapped wire on the heads which I made to resemble flames (referencing the origin of the phoenix). If the bird has a striking shape then hopefully the shadow it will create will be more interesting as the plan is to project against the puppet, to create a larger, more defined shadow.
The signature part of the puppet was going to be the wings as they were planned to be huge and are over a metre long each. The production of these was relatively simple as I carried on the experimentation from the bird's head into the wings so that there was some continuity and they looked like they were a part of the same being.
Again, thinking of what would make the wings more interesting onstage I cut holes out of them which I filled with straggly wire and feathers. This was to make the shadow less of a big block and because the Phoenix is a mythical creature I didn't think it mattered much if I cut a big hole out of it.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Future of Money Project

During the second term, former Interactive Arts student Austin Houldsworth came into uni to give a talk about a competition that he was helping to run called 'The Future of Money.' The brief was to design a new currency to get rid of hard currency and one example shown was to have electronic money.
The deadline was in 3 weeks, so it wasn't masses of time but I decided to give the project a go, focussing to begin with on the electronic side. I was thinking about how everyone has an iPhone or a Blackberry where they can download apps to play games etc. I began designing a device that had a resemblance to handheld game consoles with a flip up screen and the general idea was to have an electronic debit account and a barcode scanner on the side that would scan items and immediately debit the money from your account. For security reasons, the device is also attached with a fingerprint scanner.

I made a prototype of my idea from clay and then painted it in black latex to give it the protective rubber look. The brief also said that it wanted us to explore the possible consequences of such a dramatic change in currency and wanting to make my submission different from other possible ones I decided to create mine like a dossier from the future. I wanted to have random clippings from newspapers, letters etc that would slowly piece together the story that I am trying to put across. I found this interesting because it was a different way of storytelling, giving me a break from my other projects and it let me be a bit more loose and creative with what I produced.

I got to use a lot more digital work in this than my other projects which are much more craft based. I enjoyed being able to put in the little quirks like making the paper look folded and used or having masking taped corners to make it look like it had been tacked into the folder. I enjoyed this because it was the details that made the piece and I had the chance to try and make my own future.
I was fairly pleased with the final result, if I had more time before the deadline I would have liked to have neatened up my ideas but I knew I had done my best in the time. Although my submission was not shortlisted I did get an email to say that it was close which I thought was a nice thing to be told as I they didn't have to do it.

Red Riding

To jump to the other end of the film, I had also decided to end the film on a Red Riding Hood theme contrasting it with the idea of missing children. I didn't want to use the idea of missing children to sensationalise it and try to stoke up controversy but I wanted to be respectful and create a sombre mood that will leave the audience in a reflective mood.
The signature element of the Red Riding tale is, of course, the red cloak that she wears and so I created my own cloak with red fabric. I had previously sewed some stuff and so I mocked up some simply sewing patterns. For the fairytale element of this part, I wanted to created a mood that was quite disturbing so that the audience are not quite sure what is happening at first. The woods are a big part of the story and I looked at the handheld camera feel of The Blair Witch Project, although I didn't want to create a horror I thought it was important to make it a little sinister as the whole point is that the girl is in danger so this isn't a typical happy fairytale walk in the woods.
I cut little Red Riding figures out of the hem of the cloak as I wanted to give the look of deterioration; Red Riding is in trouble and disappearing. However, when looking at the final images I think this was a little unnecessary as the images are fairly sinister on their own.
When in the woods I hung the cloak from trees and did not have a model wearing it. This was because Red Riding is missing and therefore she isn't in her cloak. I think this gives the cloak a ghostly aspect and I think if you were to walk in the woods and come across this cloak hanging there you would be a little surprised if not disturbed. I know that when filming I got a little spooked myself particularly as from behind it looks as though Red Riding my actually be hanging there.
The above images were taken from the shoot and have been processed on Photoshop to mute the colours of the woods and to bring out the red of the cloak as I believe this s the most important element of the images.
To address the real world side of missing children I was originally going to fade in headlines of real cases but instead have decided to have headlines read over the backing music as I think that sound can be more effective in creating a sinister atmosphere. I will show this part when I upload the film in its entirety as I think it is better to be viewed that way.

Book Animation

I worked out of order on my current 'Ordinary vs Extraordinary' project but storyboarded a long time ago to know what I would be doing and when. I always planned to open the film with the change between the growing of the plant with the growing of a beanstalk. I wanted to state the fairytale reference quite clearly at the start of the film so that the audience were aware that that is where the inspiration has come from so I decided to make the flwer and beanstalk grow from a book as if they are growing directly from the Jack and the Beanstalk story.
This was primarily set out to be a puppetry but on thinking about it, if I was to create this piece with puppetry I would need holes in desk to hide in and string pulling everywhere and I came to the conclusion that it would be neater and more interesting if I did it wit stop motion animation anyway.
I had never used stop motion before and really wanted to give it a go so I started out with some test runs, practising making the initial flower 'grow' out of the page. I did this by taking photos as I cut the shape out of the page and then as I slowly peel it away. My first attempt is above and it is fairly jerky and slow moving but I thought it was best to make these mistakes now and improve on them.
After about 4 attempts I seemed to get the hang of it and continued t do the whole beanstalk part. I took inspiration from old 60s B-movies with the direction of the animation having quick shots of rumbling pages and then tentacles breaking out made from the book pages. I wanted to build up the growth so that it does seem like this beanstalk is a big contrast to the little flower, that is shown quivering as it grows.
The actual beanstalk is a cloth sleeve that has ripped book pages stuck to it and then to give the effect of it growing from the book I cut a hole into the book and tucked the sleeve into it and then photographed it as it grew out.
For my first animation, I was actually quite surprised by it and I will definitely use animation again.