Sunday, 30 November 2014

Lip Sync November 2014 challenge

This is the first ever piece of lip sync animation practice I've done. I decided to use the November 2014 audio clip released by That way I was able to see how others were getting along animating to the same clip by looking through the forums on the site. The website is also completely full of great examples of lip sync and filled with good advice.

I listened to the piece of audio first and then brainstormed some ideas. Once I decided on one of the ideas I shot some reference footage. Next I downloaded AnimSchool's Malcolm rig (free to download from their website). I think it's a great rig and character to use for animation practice - the rig and controls are easy to use and the Animation Picker is an amazing tool!

These are pages from my sketchbook where I wrote out the audio, drew quick sketches of my ideas, and started to note down advice from 11 Second Club and Digital Tutors about lip sync and facial animation:

For the scene, I had the idea of a man giving himself a pep talk in a mirror. I had to work out in Maya how to create a mirror effect and I ended up achieving this by using a Phong shader in the colour black with the reflectivity turned to full:
experimenting with mirror effects...
not quite there yet...
success! :)

- Malcolm character courtesy of

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

A Return to Life Drawing

Considering I haven't been to a life drawing class in quite a few months, I don't think I did too badly! Although I did panic slightly that I had completely lost my drawing skills during the first drawing - top left figure in first picture... :p

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Bookstore observations...

Was sat in Waterstones with a peppermint tea and one of the new ginger syrup Christmas muffins (yum) and got the sketchbook out to do a bit of observational drawing. The old man reading with the magnifying glass fell asleep for quite a while until the store got more busy - I probably would too in a cosy corner surrounded by books! :p

"Do you know the muffin man?"

Sunday, 2 November 2014

New studio...

Since finishing the Masters course I have been one of DJCAD's Animators in Residence! So I have a new studio, which I share with the other Animator in Residence, to work on personal projects whilst helping out with the department.
I gave the room a good spring cleaning and now it just needs a window fixed - keeping big scarf on for now!

AnimSchool's Malcolm rig is looking a little angry in this one :p

Things that I would like to work on during the residency:
- Showreel (including examples of lipsync, and missing examples of animation principles and acting)
- CV
- Website (think I definitely need to create one!)

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Observational Drawing - George Square, Glasgow

Whilst trying to avoid the flock of pigeons that were taking over the square, managed to do a few observational drawings of people sitting on the benches in the Square:

Saturday, 23 August 2014

MAV London trip

Some of us from the MSc Animation course went down to London for a few days to take the Degree Show on the road.

We visited The Mill, Escape Studios, Jellyfish Pictures and MPC - Moving Picture Company. It was great to see and hear from these studios the work they do, what they look for in potential employees and general advice about the VFX and animation industry.
I visited The Mill and MPC last year with the Undergraduate course, showcasing our films in the screening room at MPC. However this years visit I got to see a bit more of the MPC building as we were in a different screening room. We received a lengthy presentation about the company and the industry, followed by a Q and A - felt truly inspired and motivated once it was over!

We also had some spare time to explore London, visiting some well-known landmarks and soaking up the London buzz :)

The 'Tug of Biscuit' team

Possibly the best bowl of Pasta I've ever had - at 'Vapiano' on Wardour Street

Friday, 15 August 2014

Masters Degree Show

The opening night of Degree Shows are always exciting, the work is finished and we can all finally relax! One of my favourite things about Degree Shows though is watching an audience react to watching your film on the big screen :D

*Somehow in the excitement of the evening, we all managed to forget to take a class photo... D'oh!

Masters Semester 3 - 'Tug of Biscuit'

Semester 3 on the MSc Animation and Visualisation course was concentrated around the production and completion of the short film 'Tug of Biscuit'. I directed the film and had 3 other members on the team: Kirti Goenka, Georgios Baritakis, and Sheng Li. Here is the finished film:

Tug Of Biscuit from Lilly Durrant on Vimeo.

The film is also viewable here on Youtube.

This Semester I worked on blendshapes, layout, animation, and editing, whilst directing the film.
A full detailed account of the making of this film can be viewed on my Master's blog here: 'Lilly Durrant - MSc Animation & Visualisation'.

Watercolour silhouette studies of dogs

Dog blendshapes sketches

Final Dog Blendshapes

Human character expressions

Bird expressions and blendshapes sketches

Final Bird Blendshapes

Animation begins...


Production Schedules and Animation Shot Lists

Animating the dog in Shot 3 (more breakdowns of the shots I animated can be found on my Master's blog):

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Dragons In Dundee

As part of the 'Screen in the Square' (during the Commonwealth Games), local filmmakers and animators were invited to submit films to be shown in Dundee City Centre. Our Master's class film 'Concerning Dragons' made it into the lineup! The screen wasn't quite as big as we were expecting but was great to see it up there nonetheless :)

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Observational Drawing in Paris

Went on a short trip to Paris this week! Managed to fit in some observational drawing amongst all the sightseeing and gallery viewings.

Place des Vosges was a great place for observational drawing, it was filled with people enjoying the sun and having picnics:

Then I spotted some mischievous small birds who were picking up bits of food left behind from picnics and lunches. I took some video footage of them for reference for the bird character in 'Tug of Biscuit' as the personalities seemed to suit:

When I got home I had a look at the bird footage and decided to do a quick animation test. I really liked the way they hop around from A to B when they aren't flying - their version of a walk cycle - and I think this could work well for our bird character. Here is a rough test I speed-animated on my iPad with the 'Animation Creator' app:

I also found a Digital Tutors tutorial which shows how to animate a hop-step for a bird, which should be useful:

Friday, 23 May 2014

Masters Semester 2

Here is a summary (a bit of a long summary post but it's been a busy semester!) of my work from 3 modules in Semester 2 on the MSc Animation & Visualisation course, including links to blog posts for each project.

All blog posts for Semester 2 (including notes from meetings and tutorial/workshop notes) can be viewed HERE.

Going Live
All relevant Going Live blog posts on this blog can be viewed HERE.

Here is the final film:

Concerning Dragons from Kieran Duncan on Vimeo.

To begin the project, lots of research was carried out. I then produced moodboards to help the group with inspiration and reference for each aspect of the story that had been developed:

Next I contributed some character designs for the Eagle and Dragon characters:
Relevant blog post at: Going Live Character Design blog post

One character I took through the pipeline from concept to animation was the Tree-Hand.

Relevant blog post at: Going Live 3D Modeling blog post

Relevant blog post at: Going Live Rigging blog post

Relevant blog posts at: Going Live Animatic Work blog post and Going Live Character Animation blog post

This is the animation I did for Shot 1:

All Xray - Frame 257 to 565 from Lilly Durrant on Vimeo.

One of my other roles within the team was Production Manager.
Relevant blog post at: Going Live Production blog post

Once the film was completed, we all went through to Glasgow to present it to Axis Animation Studio.
Relevant blog post at: Going Live Final Film and Presentation blog post
Some of the slides from the PowerPoint presentation

Photo taken at Axis Animation by Phillip Vaughan

Advanced Production
All relevant blog posts for Advanced Production module can be viewed HERE.

One of the first things our group worked on at the start of the Semester was the story and storyboard. This involved a couple of story meetings and lots of post-its:

Photo taken by Kirti Goenka

I then took all of the post-its and put them together into a rough animatic. The story was then divided up between the team to draw out the shots more clearly, which I then updated the animatic. The story then went through some more changes and development. It was then my job to draw up the new storyboard and animatic. This was the most up-to-date 2D animatic I created:

One of the first parts of research was creating moodboards to explore style:
3D style
2D style

Capturing my own reference footage was useful research and can be used as reference when it comes to animating. I set up the same scenario as the story and filmed my own dog taking a biscuit into the garden:

Put a bird feeder in the garden - reference for the bird character

The dog character took the most work to get right, and involved multiple group meetings to discuss and draw out variations before getting to the final character design:
Dog character sketching
Sketching Dog faces
Dog character sketching - decided on a Jack Russell Terrier breed
Colour variations
Colour variations with jumpers
Color variations for Owner and Dog - the Dog is held by the Owner in 2 shots, therefore the dog's jumper could not clash or merge with the Owner's jumper.
I quickly did an edit with Concept Art that Sheng had created to test whether these colours would work in the environment that Sheng had designed.

Trying out a variety of hairstyles for the Owner character

Through research, I decided that the Linnet bird would be the best suited for the film. It is on the Red List for Conservation Concern and has a pop of bright pink/red to help it stand out in the Autumn/Winter environment:
Sketches and digital painting of Linnet Birds in different poses

These are some watercolour studies I did to explore how the watercolour-style of our film will look:
Watercolour plants
Watercolour studies
Watercolours of props in the film

This is the 3D animatic I created, using two rigs I downloaded (including the Malcolm character courtesy of - ). The initial environment was modeled by Sheng. The temporary bird was created by Giorgos. I am responsible for the layout, camera and animation in the 3D animatic. The 3D animatic will continue to be used into the production, swapping in more finalised assets, and re-editing the timing if the film needs shortened:

Through working on the 3D animatic, I learned how to set-up and use an animation picker. This is something I found very useful to use and will most likely incorporate into my animation workflow:

As the Director for this project, my role has been to help make creative decisions, overseeing the creation of designs in Pre-Production and review the progress of assets being created in Production. In order to communicate efficiently and gather notes discussed at team meetings and reviews, I produced documents such as the one below, detailing any adjustments that were needed:

I also worked with Kirti to help with the creation of a Shot List, as I realized that a Shot List would be very helpful with the creation of the 3D animatic and could be used throughout the production to keep track of the progress of each shot:
Working out how to divide the shots up for the Shot List

A page from the Shot List

Reflection On Practice
All relevant blog posts for Reflection On Practice Module can be viewed HERE.
The title of my research for this module was: 'How to create empathy for a cartoon dog - An investigation into the connection between an audience and animated dog characters.'
This relates back to my Programme Of Study and original goal for animating, which is to create believable and convincing character performances.

One of the first methods of research was to carry out a focus group. During this focus group I asked the participants questions relating to two video clips. First was Walt Disney’s Pluto – Bone Bandit (1948); the second was Walt Disney’s Bolt (2008). They both showed a cartoon dog hungry and searching for food. An interesting aspect I analysed was the different responses between dog owners and non-dog owners and how this had an effect on their empathy towards a cartoon dog.
Making notes and highlighting important points on the transcript.

I then investigated different techniques to create empathy for a cartoon dog that I can use for the dog character in my own film project 'Tug of Biscuit'. Here are a few of these techniques below:

From the focus group, it was clear that both dog expressions and human expressions are needed to create a believable performance. This helped me to add a new shot into the Tug of Biscuit storyboard, showing the dog stop to look around suspiciously for the bird, before deciding to dig a whole to hide the biscuit:
Three Storyboard panels I drew for Tug of Biscuit, with the new shot added in the middle

Incorporating realistic dog behaviour is important, therefore collecting reference video footage and doing observational drawings from life are ways to capture subtle mannerisms and movement that can be incorporated into final animation:
Observational drawings of my own dog

 Another technique to help with anthropomorphic characters is to draw a human's reaction to a similar situation, then draw the dog again but with the human expressions incorporated:
My own drawings showing a human’s reaction to their food being stolen by a bird.
My own drawings showing a dog’s reaction, merged with human expression, to their food being stolen by a bird.

All of these techniques and methods I can incorporate into my practice as an Animator, on a variety of projects.
Slides from the PowerPoint presentation for the Mock Conference

Life Drawing and Observational Drawing
Drawing and observing life is something I still value as an important skill in animation. I managed to find some time to attend some life drawing classes this semester. As there are two animals I will be animating in Tug of Biscuit, I went up to Camperdown Wildlife Park to do animal sketches. I've also using my own dog as a reference to draw from. Relevant blog posts at: Life Drawing and Observational Drawing.