Vertical Project: Surrealist Animation

At the beginning of this project I brainstormed all of the possible topics I could research that relate to my memory of the gnome sanctuary. From gnomes I identified dolls and puppetry, and from that I went on to identify the art movement surrealism. Surrealism fits my concept well as my memory is focusing on the whimsical humorous nature of the gnome sanctuary whilst also trying to convey the weirdness and strangeness of the situation.

Inspired by the introduction to Adobe After Effects that I attended this week I decided that my final format for this project will be an animation, this was also previously suggested during early discussions with the tutors. An animation seems fitting as well for a memory, when we remember past events we don’t tend to see the memory as a still and detailed image but instead we remember key highlights from that event which progress through time. There an animation drawing attention to key visual and auditory highlights, and progressing with time seems appropriate.

To combine the format of animation with the idea of surrealism I began to research surrealist animations, as seen above. Many of the animations use collage which has been photographed to form a stop motion film, this approach is quick and easy to do however I find the outcomes to appear rough and the rough nature takes away from the imagery. The bottom two animations however I think is the most successful, where the collaged elements have been digitally animated. The smooth nature of the animation and the elements placed on a flat background gives an eerie unnatural feelings that relates to my concept.

The imagery I choose to use in my animation will be inspired by my previous research into the garden centre aesthetic, looking at garden centre displays where the objects are juxtaposed into their setting. I will also seek inspired from my own memory of the gnome sanctuary. Whilst at the gnome sanctuary many of the gnomes were sculpted to appear to be taking part in a variety of activities, ranging from everyday activities to bizarre fantastical activities, therefore I will generate imagery based upon this.

Introduction to Adobe Premiere Pro and Adobe After Effects

Early in the year I attended an introduction to motion workshop where we editing footage using Adobe Premiere Pro. Today I attended a short introduction to Adobe Premier Pro workshop which focused more on how to use that specific software package, where as the introduction to motion workshop focused more on video editing. The workshop also introduced how to use the software Adobe After Effects.

Premiere Pro is for video editing and you can use it to compose original work, After Effects on the other hand is for creating animations and can be used to create original artwork. Both software programmes are project based, therefore all assets must be saved in the same folder to maintain the links.

We began the introduction with looking at Adobe Premiere Pro. We looked at how to get our photographs safely off the camera, how to correctly format our projects and how to import our photographs into the software. The we began to look at the uses of some of the keys terms, something we had not previously covered in the introduction to motion workshop. The tools we looked at was the ripple edit, rolling edit, slip and slide tools, all designed to manipulate how footage, images and audio are positioned on the timeline. Finally we looked at how to render our final outcome in Premiere Pro. We looked at how to test render a small selection of footage from the film, which is useful to when working on large projects, as well as how to fully render your film with the correct formatting.

Once we had covered Adobe Premiere Pro we moved onto Adobe After Effects, a software that was completely knew to me and one that i was eager to learn. Throughout the course so far I have worked on many projects that I would have liked to have created animations for, however I lacked the skills and found learning the software by myself to be a very steep learning curve, therefore this workshop was perfect for my interests.

We started by looking at how to import assets into the software, still single images and a sequence of images, and how to place them within the workspace. Then we began to look at how to manipulate those assets by applying position, scale and opacity effects. Finally we looked at applying effects that changed the visual qualities of the imported assets, such as linear colour key and compound arithmetic. Finally, like with Premiere Pro, we covered how to render our final animations and make sure that they are correctly formatted.

Overall I found the induction extremely useful as it was handy to recap on how to use Premiere Pro and learn more about the tools, but what I really found useful was learning about After Effects. After Effects is a particularly difficult piece of software to self teach due to the fact that it is so fast and is used for a variety of purpose and formats, therefore a concise induction into the software aimed at beginners has helped me to understand roughly how it works, and hopefully I can now continue to self teach myself the software a lot easier.

Explain the Unexplained

09/01/2017 – 06/02/2017

Brief: To visually explain an unexplainable concept through a series of sequential imagery. This concept should be chosen from a list of provided ideas and the final outcome should be in a format appropriate to the subject matter, experimentations /explorations and to my ideas and investigations. Through this project an awareness of content and aesthetic hierarchies should be developed, along with research and self-evaluation skills.

From the list of concepts, theories, processes, etc. provided I chose to explain The Bermuda Triangle. I wanted to choose a concept that had a long history behind it, and had many different interpretations which would allow me to choose information from a broad range of ideas for my infographic.

BBC Concert Orchestra events at London’s Southbank Centre by Studio Output, 2013 – Research into a series of posters to explain different interpretations

Erola Boix – Research into combining photography and graphics

Recipe Cards by Jing Zhang – Research into vector illustrations

The FÖDA Annual Report by FODA – Research into imagery dervied from infographics

Apollo Screen Print by Paul Button, 2016 – Research into simple, yet clear, infographics

For the format of my infographic I was looking at formats that could be tall and thin. The Bermuda Triangle mystery is based on planes from the sky and boats on the water that disappeared, and some of the explanations behind this could be found deep beneath the ocean, so the format I wanted to use should be able to span from the sky and descend down below the ocean. I looked into producing scrolling websites, books, and animations. Ideally I wanted to produce an animation in Adobe After Effects that would slowly descend from the sky to the bottom of the ocean, stopping periodically for graphics and text to appear on screen with narration. However due to the time I had available I decided this was not wise as I do not have any experience with the software. Instead I chose to produce a poster book, initially taking the form of a book it could be unfolded to reveal a poster on the reverse. I liked this idea as it would be as if uncovering the mystery.

I revisited my notes from my book arts induction and recreated the three different types of poster books we learnt how to create. I then roughly drew out my design to see how it would work when the paper was folded into a booklet and when it was unfolded. I decided upon the poster book format pictured below, I chose this design as it allows for a poster to be printed on one side and a booklet on the other, where as some of the poster designs do not allow for that isolation. Furthermore the slit is in the middle, so the paper is attached at both ends, whereas some of the designs have large slits meaning the booklet is fragile and likely to sustain damage.

A3 sheet of paper folded into 8 with a slit cut in the middle

One side has the design for the poster whilst the other side has the design for the booklet

The poster book folded up

In Adobe InDesign I created my template for my poster book, this involved producing 2 A3 documents. One document was split into 8 equal segments, representing the pages on the inside of the poster book, and one document remained as a normal A3 page which I later applied my poster design to.

To create the illustrations for my booklet document I created vectors using shapes and the pen tool in Adobe Illustrator and then exported the images as PNGs (as this allowed me to save the images with a transparent background). I then placed the PNGs into my InDesign document.

What I noticed through my research was that many good infographics were imagery focused with minimal supporting text, the infographics which relied on text too much were cluttered, confusing and tiresome to read. For my booklet I broke my research into the Bermuda Triangle down into segments (introduction, location, number of disappearances, noticeable disappearances, theories and the history behind the theories), I then reduced the information down to be as minimal yet still as informative as possible. In my sketchbook I created many possible design solution for the different booklet spreads, below is my final design.

Booklet Side 1

Booklet Side 2

As seen above me use of text is minimal and aided by easily recognisable icons and symbols (for example the location markers next to the information describing the location of the Bermuda Triangle), which help to reader to understand the information. Information that I chose to leave out of the booklet was descriptions of each of the theories, I did this as the descriptions are very text heavy and is key information, therefore I thought it appropriate to be included on the poster side of the booklet where there is more space.

Poster Design

Booklet Design

Booklet Design

Booklet Design

Above is a mock poster book that I had printed for my group crit. Once printed I became aware of some areas that need to be changed as they do not work well when the poster book is cut and printed. These I identified are:

  • The main title on the front of the poster goes across the centre cut and fold which can cause the letters to not align when viewed as a poster. I will shorten the title so that it does not go across the centre.
  • The folds of the booklet does not perfectly line up with the dashed fold lines on the booklet, therefore I will remove the lines as it makes the booklet appear messy.

During the crit the tutors and my peers raised some more areas of improvement and ways in which I could develop my piece further.

  • To make the map section look less dry possibly experiment with using an atlas rather than vectors
  • Reduce the size of the theories on poster side A as they look too tight
  • The vector illustration on poster side A looks too flat, look into topography maps or illustrating one of the theories within the constraints of the triangle
  • Try printing the poster book at a larger scale, possibly A2

Based on the feedback given I firstly increased the scale of my poster to A2, which would then fold down into an A4 booklet. I also adjusted the positioning of the main title so that it did not interfere with the centerfold cut. Furthermore, I removed the dashed lines across the booklet indicating where folder are to be made. Finally I reduced the size of the textual information on the poster containing the theories, this was to create more space between the theories as initially they were very cramped.

After making these small adjustments I began to experiment with illustrating the theories covered in my booklet on the Bermuda Triangle.

Experiments with using Bermuda Triangle news articles, however the rectangular format of the newspaper article did not fit well into the triangle causing most text and images to not be included

Using old maritime maps of the Bermuda Triangle but the fine detail of the maps is lost at such a large scale

Using imagery of iron filings, in relation to theory based on magnetic fields, this imagery is far more abstract and could also represent unusual weather

Based on my experiments I decided to use the iron filings imagery for my final design. To produce the imagery I used the trace tool in Adobe Illustration to create a vector, this was to ensure that no quality was lost from the image when increased to A2. I then saved this image as a PNG and imported it into Adobe Photoshop where I made it grayscale and converted it into a duotone, this allowed me to easily convert the colour of the abstract marks to the same green used throughout my design.

Final booklet design – Dashed lines removed from the original which indicated where to fold the booklet

Final poster design – The title was edited so that it did not interfere with the centre cut and fold mark, the theories textual information was reduced in size to give more space between the theories, and the theory ‘magnetic fields’ was abstractly illustrated to create more visual interest within the poster

After leaving this design for a while I came back to it once again as I was still not pleased with the final outcome. I felt the imagery on the front was still too flat and the iron filing imagery should be better utilised. I revisited one of my previous experiments where the map and the triangle outline had been removed, therefore just leaving the duotone triangle.

Previous experiment with the map and outline of the triangle removed

Layering a low opacity copy of the iron filings imagery in the background to add some texture to the flat design

Experimenting with various opacities

Experimenting with the composition within the triangle to ensure a visually interesting area of the iron filings imagery becomes the focal point

Final front poster design: The outline has been removed from the triangle and the triangles scale has been increased, a lower opacity copy of the iron filings imagery has been placed in the background to create texture and remove some of the flatness from the design