Design Discourse One introduces the key historical and contemporary movements, theoretical frameworks and research methodologies associated with design interaction and animation. The aims of this module include:
- opportunity to develop an understanding of historical and contemporary movements and relevant theoretical frameworks.
- importance of independent and group learning and critical awareness.
- encourage the interrogation of research and appropriate case studies.
- recognize the relationship between practice and research.
- encourage that articulation of study skills and basic research methods.
- encourage the articulation of contextual and case study research through oral, visual and written submissions.
Perception – (definition)
- perceiving: the process of using the senses to acquire information about the surrounding environment or situation
- result of perceiving: the result of the process of perception
- impression: an attitude or understanding based on what is observed or thought.
Firstly, we looked up the meaning of the word perception; this explained the definition of the word; from that point we understood what we wanted to achieve for our animation piece.
The next step we took was to construct an idea for the animation; one member mentioned a ballad they knew, a local song from a catalogue developed by Francis James Child; this ballad was later popularized by a local Irish band called The Dubliners. The story is about an old woman that lived in the wood, she had a baby three months old and a long pen knife, which she stuck in the baby’s heart. Two police men and a man came and took her away and they put her in jail; she was trailed and hanged for her crime; and that was the end of the old woman who lived in the wood, and that was the end of the baby too. It is a creepy nursery rhyme/ fairy tale, kind of ballad; the song is called Weile Wiele Weila, and the original title of the ballad is named The River Saile, (because the old woman lived by that river).
These were the concept designs that I produced for the character and background pieces for the animation. The character of the old woman became a tricky concept. What the team wanted was to have her to appeal as both nice and lovable, but, also have a sinister quality about her appearance, which suggested her insane/ psychotic personality.
However, it was soon after that one member of the team came up with the idea that we should bring in a secondary character, a twin personality of the old woman; a shadow that showed her darker nature. This shadow would follow her about the place, and show up or form only when some gruesome scenes were about to happen. We loved this idea, it was something I had not thought of before, when creating the look of the character. It was fortunate that this member had suggested this idea, because it made the character much easier to create; even though they were two characters in one it was fun to design.
Lorenzo Mattotti was an illustrator I had discovered when looking for inspiration, for the look of the animation. His works include illustrations for Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven and Jekyll and Hyde; his works have an eerie appeal and provided the perfect source of reference for how we wanted to create the atmosphere of our animation.
Above are some of the early designs for the character of the old woman; I began interpreting other animators’ and illustrators’ styles: Edward Gorey, Sylvain Chomet and Milt Kahl. I felt I need to mimic their same approach to a character to train my mind or rather, direct my subconscious to generate a style similar in many aspects to these artists. However, this was only for reference and research/ study; which helped me train my hand and encouraged and inspired me to look for my own original design, that took influence from these references.
We also looked at the animations of David Firth for our animation; what we wanted was a very creepy style for our animation. We decided on interpreting the same idea for the backgrounds in this animation. For our own design of the backgrounds we played around with the squiggles. We wanted our animation to be simple, but, also look creepy and weird; also with a fairy tale theme to lighten most of the atmosphere and mood. However, the squiggles in some of the scenes we designed to exaggerate the mood; if we wanted a particular scene to build up the tension and suspense, we dramatically played with the tone of light and the squiggles.
We even began to reference from black and white films, researching the style, mood and tone of the cinematography; we looked at films mainly from the black and white era, and one director that sprung to mind was Alfred Hitchcock. Hitchcock states (in A Talk with Hitchcock, part 1, YouTube), “It is not the pure matter of the story. It’s about what/how you do with it.” He claims: “Many people when they look at a film, they look at its contentonly. Never seem to study, (talking about the critical faculty): what was there in the film to make an audience go through these emotions.”
Hitchcock also stated that a roller-coaster builder should be referred to as an artist/designer; because of the way he designs the loops and turns for the reaction of the rider. This is what a filmmaker should think about when creating a mood/ atmosphere for a film that is suspense driven. It is more about catching your audience off guard, alerting them and getting a reaction out of them, all for the purposes of entertaining them. A thriller movie can not be called so, unless there is something there to suggest that this movie has thriller or suspense within each scene.
Therefore when my team and I were developing and discussion this animation, we talked mainly about what our Perception theme would be. We came to the conclusion that fear, unnerving and sinister emotions were what would generate the Perception of the animation. Perception is the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses; so, these emotions were what we wanted our audience to feel/ perceive when watching the animation. Especially when it was a creepy story about an old woman who kills a baby and is hanged for her crime, how could no one have these feelings when watching a story like that.
From this point, the team and I began to discuss scene length and the timing of our animations and we developed an animatic, to demonstrate and provide an idea for us to decide at which point in the animation do we want to exaggerate the action. One scene we worked on the timing for was the moment in which the old woman raises her pen-knife; we discussed how long would we hold the position of the hand raised before she slashes it down to suggest stabbing the baby. Also how slow the motion of the arm would last when raising up, this would create suspense, as the audience would be anticipating what would happen next.
Even a scene where she (the old woman) walks towards the baby’s room; how would we play that out? Would she be heading towards the room, the audience viewing her from the back or would she be facing the audience and slowly advancing toward the audience in a sinister cinematic lighting; starting from silhouette and gradually forming as she gets closer to the screen. This was to give us an idea or plan out of what would create visually a suspenseful moment on the screen.
I also remembered a classic Hammer Horror film; called The Nanny, starring Bette Davis. This performance from that particular actress was superb in every way; it was a film about a nanny who is a dominating figure within a household she assists, and I think I remember, it was about how one of the children had died years ago and she had returned and the young boy was a witness and was punished for accusing the nanny of the murder of his sister. The rest of the film sees the nanny try to keep calm with the disobedient boy, whom I think she soon tries to kill, so as to keep him quiet. Anyway, it is a brilliant performance from Bette Davis; her performance is achieved through the expression of her eyes.
This film provided an excellent reference for my character of the old woman; what I have learned from researching and watching interviews from animators at Disney, etc. is that, the one thing you don’t want to make a mistake on is the performance of your character’s eyes; the eyes of a character act as a window into their subconscious and allow the audience to relate or understand what a character feels in a certain scene. So, the eyes of a character play the part of showing the audience what they feel or might be thinking about at a particular point in time; for example if they are a sinister character who has thought of an evil plot at one point in a scene, then their eyes should show this train of thought, in a series of movements and expressions of the face and eyes.
This we hope to achieve in the animating of the character of the old woman and the character of the shadow.
For the animation we plan to use Flash and create it as a Motion Tween.
(The inspiration for the story)
We also looked to the Tale of the Three Brothers animation in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1; as inspiration for the style of our animation.
Other animated films, that were a source of inspiration for the theme of our animation.