Vodafone Advert / YODO Creative

So here’s a project that I worked on last year with the guys over at YODO Creative – they were working on a number of films for Vodafone PR to promote the thirty year anniversary of the first mobile phone call in the UK ever. The son of the Vodafone chairman was apparently smuggled away from a New Years Eve party, and rang his father using the state-of-the-art handset (that cost almost two thousand pounds).

Cycle forward (nearly) thirty years, and I was using the same model handset as reference to build the 3D version. This was a hard surface modelling project in Modo, and a fun challenge – the film required the camera to be extremely close to the model, which was intended to be showroom fresh rather than thirty years old. I built in a lot of detail to ensure that we had complete freedom of movement with the camera, worked out the camera moves with the director, going through a number of iterations to make sure we were getting the right feel to the moves. Final lighting and rendering was handled by Richard Heard.

The film was very well-received by Vodafone; uncharacteristically for a PR piece, it was picked up by just about every territory that Vodafone operates in. It was great collaborating with the guys at YODO Collective, and I’m looking forward to the next project.

P.S. One of the other films was a montage of rather adorable interviews with young kids about the phone. Some of their answers are great.

Japan Cubed

So I was experimenting with a technique in a video tutorial that the guys over at Greyscale Gorilla put together a long time ago (I would highly recommend the training over at Greyscale if you haven’t checked it out yet, there’s some great ideas for people looking to bring some 3D into their motion graphics projects – and their products are also fantastic).

I made the choice of using photos from Japan as a little throwback to when I lived there (and not at all because I’m feeling a little nostalgic for Nippon-koku, honest). The technique from the tutorial allows for a huge amount of flexibility in the images that are used and the timing of everything, and it’s perfect for transitions and photo montages. I’ll be playing with this idea in future as I already have some thoughts on things I want to try with it.

Of course there’s always things about it that I would tweak, but for a five second test done in a couple of hours I’m happy with it.

A Shot A Week – Week Two

So, first of all, this shot was supposed to be week two. There’s a not-so-interesting story about the Godus beta and a hard drive failure that required a restore and lost me a week of work but that wouldn’t be that useful to explain to you, so I won’t. That being said, here’s the shot for this week, which was “kick a ball”.


– I never got the blocking phase of this uploaded, so this shot was done without feedback from anyone. In my opinion, it shows.

– I was looking at the reference pretty heavily for this shot, and that certainly seemed to be getting the feel of the kick through, including the really strong twist in the button when she follows through the ball, was something I was really happy to find in the reference itself, but I don’t feel like I did it justice.

– I did discover that you can turn off Stella’s bunches. I quite like her with a pixie cut. I’ll look at adding her bunches back in to the shots once I’m getting more into my stride with them.

– This shot in general has kind of disappointed me, as I ended up rushing the splining, and I just feel like it started to get a bit muddy. I felt good about my blocking, and the kick which is essentially frame by frame animated from the launch into it through to the foot landing at the end of the kick. The beginning and the end aren’t working for me.

– I didn’t know what to do with the hands at the end, and kept fiddling and playing with it in the splining process. I also wanted to have that feeling of being up on the toes on the run in (as the reference) but it just doesn’t look right.

As I was watching this back ready to upload it I keep spotting endless things that I want to fix – but I’m out of time to work on this, and even though it’s taken an extra week to get this post up this shot certainly hasn’t had two weeks spent on it, thanks to other commitments. That said, and to paraphrase Beckett; try once, fail once. Try again, fail again, fail better. This shot certainly feels like a fail. With the next one, I’ll fail better.

Quite a short write-up these week, I’ll try and expand upon these a bit further with the next one!

Here’s the reference for those of you that want to check it out. All feedback is always welcomed, and please feel free to click through to the Vimeo site and download the original file if you want to frame by frame it. If you do want to leave feedback, a comment on this post would be utterly fantastic.

All good learning experiences, of course. On to the next shot! Week three is “jump over a gap”.

A Shot A Week – Week One

“Take a big step to the side”


Here we are at the end of week one. It’s been a lot of fun this week getting back into animating and a big thank you to all those people on Twitter and Facebook that gave some critique on the blocking pass I posted earlier this week. I think I’ll look at posting the blocking passes to Vimeo and just asking for feedback there in future just to keep everything in one place.

At the end of each week I’ll post the shot as it was when I hit deadline and then leave some critique as to how I felt things went.

Things that worked

– Stella rig is great; easy controls to work with but still loads of flexibility. First time animating with it and loved it, which bodes well for Stan and the imps.

– Overall am happy with how the shot turned out … ish. It could’ve been worse, I like the idea and the movement more now, but I feel like I could’ve done better.

Things that didn’t work

– Arcs, still clunky in some places. Aiming in future to use the grease pencil tool to track the shape of things (like the edge of a hand, say) rather than using motion trails.

– Need to work on breaking up motion, offsetting stuff more; I try really hard to work clean when blocking, but I think I hang on to that too long when I’m getting into splining, I need to learn to offset things to get better overall movement.

– Context; putting more thought into this at the beginning of the process. The final context for the shot came at quite a late stage (Wednesday), so I did a bunch of thumbnails, shot more reference – for shots in future I need to lock that down by Monday evening at the latest.

– Hair pass didn’t happen as I ran out of time. Ditto a proper polish pass.

– Scheduling the shot through the week, and avoiding that slipping. I ended up splining on Saturday and Sunday, rather than Thursday and Friday as I meant to. That meant no time for feedback on the splines.

As a last note, I think I kinda moved away from the initial direction for the shot – which was “take a big step to the side” – whereas what I ended up animating is more like a sideways jump. Something else to bear in mind when blocking the next shot.

With regards to scheduling things through the week, I’m going to aim for Monday planning, Tuesday block and post for feedback, Wednesday fixes and start splines, Thursday and Friday splining and post for feedback on Friday night, Saturday and Sunday polish (and then final on Sunday night). Any feedback I get after final is posted I can save and come back to once I have a few shots done and want to polish any rough edges for inclusion in a showreel. One problem I had with this week’s shot was recognising that I didn’t have any context for it early on, which meant redoing things halfway through the week. I also didn’t get the shot online for feedback until Wednesday morning. Uploading it on Tuesday evening would mean being able to catch people when they might have a chance to look at it for five minutes before heading off to bed, and of course tapping into all the animators in different timezones while I’m snoozing the night away.

So shot one is finished, lessons to be learned. On to the next shot – “kick a ball”.

A Shot A Week

So this week I’m starting a new thing to up my character animation skills, and develop a new showreel composed of entirely new material. I’m calling it A Shot A Week because things need names (it’s a very Ronseal name though). Also because giving it a name makes it more of a thing.

So here’s how I see this working. Every week I do a new shot. To start with I’ll be working my way through a list of body mechanics shots from my time at Animation Mentor. Each week I’ll be going through the whole process, planning, blocking, splining, polishing, with a view to finishing the shot on Sunday evening. I’ll be uploading in-progress shots to my Vimeo account and probably posting on this blog as well – I’ll certainly be publishing the final versions of the shot on Sunday. If I don’t get the shot finished by Sunday, tough. It gets sidelined and I start the next one. So the posts on Sunday should be a good indicator of how far I’m managing to take each shot.

So not only am I working on developing my animation skills, but also on finishing shots, and how fast I get through those shots as well. Should be fun!

The Wedding Project

This was an animation project I got involved in after a call for animators on Twitter; great fun to work on, even if it did involve rather a lot of long days and late nights, not to mention there are a few things going on in there I wish I could fix. The deadline for getting it all rendered meant I had to rush it all, but it was a great experience working on something different for someone else with less-than-perfect rigs and still trying to give a little bit more to the performance than was expected.

I worked on two shots here, the introduction of the girl’s parents, and the car journey shot.