Animation in the ‘Battle of the Bastards’

Animation in the ‘Battle of the Bastards’

Animation continues to become a larger and more integrated component of the film, television and video game industries.  On their own animated films are now some of the largest and most successful ever.  Frozen was the 8th highest grossing film of all time, Toy story, Minions, and Despicable Me 2 were all billion dollar films.  In television too animated series like Family Guy, Archer, and Ajin (to name a very few) continue to be popular.  But even within more traditional ‘live’ film and television, animation in the form of CGI and motion graphics are becoming a larger and more closely integrated component.

I would be hard pressed to find a film or television series that did not incorporate animation in some form - even if that was only in the opening sequence or closing credits.  It would be hard to imagine Lord of the Rings, or the Hobbit series without the use of CGI.  None of the almost endless list of recent superhero movies would have been possible without extensive use of CGI, in fact whole characters (e.g. ultron) were created using them.  

A great recent example of near seamless integration of animation with live action was in the recent ‘Battle of the Bastards’ episode in the Game of Thrones series. You may not want to follow this link if you haven’t already watched the latest season of GoT but this CGI breakdown of the battle is amazing:

The CGI for the scene (according to the website linked) was produced by Australian animation and visual effects studio ‘iloura’ and I think they can be really proud of the work they did here.  But what impresses me most about this scene is how hard it is to spot the CGI from the live action, it is the integration of the two mediums that really makes the whole greater than the sum of its parts; this integration would have required unbelievable coordination, imagination, and trust between directors, action sequence coordinators, actors, and visual effects artists to name just a few of the groups I'm sure were involved in the creation of this scene.  Animation as a stand alone art form is of course great but its use as a sometimes invisible component of a much larger story telling experience is what is really exciting and the future of film and television.

Pokemon Go

Pokemon Go

I’m sure everyone has now heard about the mobile game phenomenon that is Pokemon Go.  I’m sure many of you have heard much more about it than you’d ever want to and feel you would be quite happy to never hear anything more about it again.  Unfortunately, for you then, this is a further discussion of Pokemon Go.

Pokemon Go is a crazy supermassive social phenomenon. It  has been downloaded 7.5 million times in a week, in that week it has surpassed Tinder and is on track to quickly surpass Twitter if the current download trend is maintained.

Do we like it?

Well, at Inklish we tend to be drawn (excuse the pun) towards games featuring animated characters but so far none of us in the office have been brave enough to download and play it.  However, there is a lot to like. 

It is popular, and people are having fun playing it, which in itself should be enough.  There has been some suggestion that it encourages young people to ‘get outside and play’, that it encourages group interaction.  And there is evidence (certainly not specifically related to Pokemon Go) that computer/mobile mediated (through games, social media etc.) interaction helps people who are shy or suffer from some forms of social anxiety to interact with others.  Technology can provide safe spaces for people to be social who otherwise wouldn’t get involved.  I think it is way too early to ascribe these things to Pokemon Go but we should be open to them. 

What are the negatives?

There may be a certain nuisance factor.  Having people walking around the city mindlessly staring at their phones while… actually no difference to current situation there. But there have been reports of Pokemon characters materialising at schools, private residences and even a Holocaust museum, none of which is really okay.  I’m sure there will be issues they have to iron out over the coming months.

But what about the game itself?

Well, we haven’t actually played it but I haven’t read a positive review yet.  The game play is limited, there’s not much more to do other than collect Pokemon, and the battles are pretty basic.  But these are reviews from gamers who are not really the audience. I think Pokemon Go is more of a social phenomenon than a game at this stage.

For me, the most exciting thing about Pokemon Go is the new type of game and gaming it represents.  This is the first mainstream iteration of an ‘augmented reality’ mobile app game.  We don’t know where this could end up, what new games could be developed and whether it has other more practical applications - like as a training tool etc.  Nobody knew what early social media sites like Friendster and Myspace would lead to or even what early mobile phones would turn into.  It’s going to be fun seeing the future iterations of these kind of games or alternative applications of the technology.  Then again it could be the modern equivalent of mini-disk players and soon be consigned to the technological dustbin of history.  We’ll just have to wait and see.   

Controlling the narrative through movement

Controlling the narrative through movement

The defining difference between graphic design, illustration, and animation is that the first two create essentially static images while animation adds timing, creates movement, and through these strategies controls the narrative of the scene.  With good visual design a graphic artist can draw your eye to key points or messaging within an image, a good illustrator can infuse emotion or create the illusion of life in an otherwise flat image.  With animation, however, we can take the same images add movement to catch the eye or bring a character to life as well as use timing to turn images and thus messages on and off as required.  This allows us to build and tell a story as opposed to simply depicting one scene.  The following are a couple of tricks we use to create movement and storytelling through animation.

A good example of controlling the narrative is in the following animation. We start with a black and white image of a city, notice that no object in the scene could be said to ‘stand out’. We introduce colour and a frame (in the form of a mobile phone) and use these elements to dictate what the viewer focuses on and, just as importantly, when. 

In ‘Running with lasers’ we bring a character to life, and add action and drama to the scene by making him run.  Depicting running is really all about feet on the ground, both feet on the ground equals walking while one or both feet off the ground equals running.  And remember when you’re running ‘knees up!’. 

Teaching kids to draw

Teaching kids to draw

At Inklish we obviously like to draw but we were really interested and a little shocked to learn the amazing role that drawing plays in human cognitive development. 

Drawing is a natural human activity in which we create ‘external representations of thoughts’.  Children do not need to be made to draw, they usually start scribbling with little to no encouragement and in fact, as most parents can attest, discouraging them from scribbling (especially all over walls and kitchen tables) is a much tougher task.  

Drawing has been shown to aid cognitive development, it teaches hand-eye coordination, and is thought to be the first step in teaching us to write.  Unfortunately however, as cool as it is, drawing is often not seen as a priority in high school and it is in high school that most children stop drawing.  But drawing is a wonderful skill and feel all parents should continue to encourage their children to draw, paint design etc. all throughout school.

Apart from the cognitive and developmental advantages we described earlier drawing is a vital skill in many modern jobs and industries (beyond the obvious of ‘being an animator’).  It is used in fields like medicine to record observations, in science to document experiments, in architecture to illustrate buildings and map out space, as well as in technology and design industries where drawing is used to conceptualise yet to be realised products.