Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Storytelling: Blair Witch Project - Review

Blair Witch Project is an American debut movie of two directors Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez, made in 1999 and considered as one of the scariest horror movies, presenting a fresh approach to that genre. 

The movie is about three young students – Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard and Michael C. Williams – who, led by Heather, decide to make a documentary about the witch of Blair. They start the production by interviewing people from Burkittsville, formerly called Blair, asking questions about the legend of the witch and crimes committed on children in near woods. 

What makes Blair... different and more memorable is the way it's been made; it presents the viewer with hand-held camera, which creates the feeling of authenticity and is to be considered as 'found footage' discovered by police. 
Blair Witch Project is a movie that awakens the audience's minds and imagination. It works on the deeper levels of consciousness, makes the viewer feel like they are trapped in the forest with characters on the screen. Ebert underlines the truth about why this movie terrifies people: „Horror films that tap into our hard-wired instinctive fears probe a deeper place than movies with more sophisticated threats” (Ebert, 1999). Every person fears various things; Blair... never shows the threat, the viewer can never see the 'witch'. Everything happens in the mind of people, fear is the reaction to noises and small details, like piles of rocks appearing from nowhere. The quotation from Berardinelli's review: '(...) what our minds conjure up is always more horrifying than anything the filmmakers can put on screen (even with today's special effects technology)' (Berardinelli, 2012), only underlines and fortifies the truth about Blair's...strong and successful attribute. Throughout the whole movie the tension is growing and it reaches its highest level near the end, when the audience expects the truth to be revealed. However, nothing spectacular happens. The movie leaves people with unanswered questions. The mind of the viewer, rasped by the tension and emotions, creates its own horrifying pictures, and this only completes the process of Blair… leaving a mark of horror on people’ brains. 

Many later movies follow the scheme and idea of Blair's... “found footage” genre, although showing different stories and approaches. However, neither of them managed to become as original and fresh as Blaire Witch Project. Some of these movies like Rec, directed by Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza, create a similar level of tension and anticipation, though because of the reviled truth about the threat, it is not as horrifying. 

A mutated human being in Rec, a huge CG monster in Cloverfield and footprints in flour in Paranormal Activity (however the last one might be considered as a successful production which leaves the viewer with unanswered questions), these, and many more, are the followers of Myrick’s and Sanchez’s concept of documentary horror movies. They are inspired by Blair’s…approach to the genre, the hand-held camera type that has been scaring people for many years without getting old or boring. Even though these movies are similar, they don’t follow one unspoken truth, which Thompson states in his review:

'A truly great horror film works because of its suspense, not because of its gore, The Blair Witch Project is such a horror movie’ (Thompson, 2009), and this rule might be the finalizing word in the discussion about Blair Witch Project’s timeless features, that presented the cinema with new and fresh approach to horror genre, and still work and scare the audiences of the world.

* Ebert, Roger (1999) online source: http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19990716/REVIEWS/907160301/1023
* Berardinelli, James (2012) online source: http://www.reelviews.net/php_review_template.php?identifier=56
* Thomspon, Bill (2009) online source: http://billsmovieemporium.wordpress.com/2009/02/17/review-the-blair-witch-project-1999/ 
2. Stills:

Monday, 25 February 2013

Toolkit Maya: Intro to Rigging and Constraints

1. Intro to Rigging and Constraints:
*Legs and Feet

2. Intro to Rigging and Constraints 2:

3. Intro to Rigging and Constraints 3:

4. Intro to Rigging and Constraints 4:
*Head, Neck & Final Grouping

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Storytelling: Reservoir Dogs - Review

Quentin Tarantino’s crime movie Reservoir Dogs was made in 1992 and it incorporates many features that later became this director’s trademarks.

The movie tells a story of a group of men who are planning a robbery. The viewer watches the events from before and after, but not the event itself. The characters are introduced to the audience by fake names; their true personalities are not known, which helps with creating the distance and respect between the viewers and the men.

Reservoir Dogs was Tarantino’s first movie which introduced and presented his original and personal style of movie making to the audiences of the world. Strong language, bold cuts and long scenes with live-time pacing are the most known features of Tarantino’s productions. His approach to the topic of strong man is forthright and resolved. Reservoir Dogs though, shows the truth and as Ebert states: "The idea is that the tough guys, except for Tierney and the deranged Maden, are mostly bluffers. they are not good at handling themselves in desperate situations' (Ebert, 1992).

The movie shows how strong and easily stereotypes work, and how uncomplicated it is to make people believe someone is a bad character. Althought under the strong and unbreakable rim of bravery and ruthlessness, men from Reservoir... hide their true personalities which seem different from what the audience is expecting. Features like kindness and compassion can be found, mixed with chaotic and indecisive hearts of human beings. The movie reveals the power of trust and unawareness, showing how one can trust another without hesitation. This part of Reservoir Dog's plot is a very strong aspect as the viewer knows the truth from the begining of the movie, which makes the emotions and receipt even stronger. The urge of telling the movie characters the truth is really strong and that's probably one of many strong reasons, which make this production memorable and timeless.

Moreover, what Tarantino does can be understood as mocking the audience; he's leading the viewers, showing and uncovering the environments and characters from the story, making the audience wait for more. Even when the story is being introduced in first minutes of the screening, the kind of tension and anticipation is created and the movie catches the eye with its pace. In his review, Burr says: ‘You may not like the terms Tarantino sets, but you have to admit he succeeds on them.’ (Burr, 2007). This only underlines how specific and different Tarantino's style is. There are always people who love his works and people who hate them, but it cannot be denied that Tarantino gave life to uniques and new values of cinematography. He managed to enter the world of cinema and remained the same, with his flamboyant style and extravagant approach to movie making.

The use of music and scene cuts for some might be too literal. Loud and cheering tracks during scenes of masacre and blood spill. Fluent transitions between locations together with life-time pacing of the movie, are strong and clear enough to convince the viewer that all the events might happen during everyday's life.

Following Carty in his review: ‘Despite being Quentin’s first directorial piece though, Reservoir Dogs is littered with all his usual trademarks.’ (Carty, N/A), which is only an evidence for Tarantino to be an uprising star with original and unigue style, who is successfuly setting new trends and ways of making movies. His influence and input into cinematography is already really volumionous and it expands with every year.

* Ebert, Roger (1992) online source: http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/19921026/REVIEWS/210260301/1023
*Burr, Ty (2007) online source: http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,312190,00.html
*Carty, Stephen (N/A) online source: http://www.flixcapacitor.co.uk/film-review/reservoir-dogs-1992
2. Stills:

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Storytelling: Final Presentation - The Art of, Animatic and Pre-Viz

Storytelling and Commission: Creative Partnership Archived

Creative Partner: Kymberly Mumford
Blog: http://kymmumford.blogspot.co.uk/

During our partnership we've been working on a short photo-comic about our 'unit 3 adventures':

Comments from Kym:
Kymberly MumfordFebruary 3, 2013 at 3:26 AM
I like number 2 has really expressive eyes and I like his head shape a bit more than 3 :)

Kymberly MumfordFebruary 1, 2013 at 10:24 AM
I really like number 1, he has such a cheeky grin on his face :P

Kymberly MumfordJanuary 14, 2013 at 5:28 PM
I quite like idea number 2 and 5, number 2 has a lot you could expand on and play around with, and number 5 I think could be really interesting, you might just have to make the story a bit simpler to fit into 1 minute :)

Comments from me:
Samantha13 February 2013 15:40
I really like the house, both interior and exterior. Are you going to paint them digitally? If yes, then is the house going to be all dark, old and scary inside? I can see it with ripped off wallpaper, spider web etc. : D
Good job anyway, these look nice!

Samantha6 February 2013 20:40
You are right about the dresses - they are all lovely! I suppose number 6 should be a good choice, though in my opinion all of them should work just fine.
As for the girl - be careful! Faces are tricky to design! I'd recommend LOTS of influential and inspirational pictures just to get sure what you are looking for in the design of the girl : D
Good luck! Can't wait to see more : )

Samantha20 February 2013 20:28
Wow, these are really clean and neat! Cool stuff : D
Still, the pre-viz movement is going to look so funny : DDD

Storytelling: Concept Arts

Final concept arts for the story The Chefs of Tonga Island:

1. Old chef's restaurant:

2. Young chef's snack bar:

3. Prop - dynamite:

Monday, 18 February 2013

Toolkit Maya: Intro to Rigging and Texturing

1. Intro to Texturing:
Networks - Double Sided Shaders
2. Intro to Texturing:
Network - X-Ray Shader

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Storytelling: Restaurant Thumbnails

These were supposed to be quick speed paints but took me way too much time. Not many different things, just various colours and effects. 

                  1  (perspective died in here...)                   2




This restaurant is not looking too luxurious, I know. I wanted it to have a touch of the islandic feel but I think it went quite wrong, too extreme. 
Next approach to the restaurant and thumbnails of Luca's snack bar will happen as soon as I take care of the storyboard. 

Monday, 11 February 2013

@Alan: Maya Checkllist

Intro to Autodesk Maya
texturing, common shaders, UV maps
geometry types, texturing and lighting, lights and shadows

Digital Sets
old alley

Intro to Character Animation
bouncing ball, pendulum, chain
jumping, can snatch, walk cycle

Intro to Lighting
whimsy house
whimsy kitchen

Intro to Pre-Visualisation
pan, roll, pitch
dolly shot, crane shot, close up, mid, far camera
contra zoom, camera shake, car crash

UNIT2: Secret Lairs
bed and lanterns
pillars and lanterns
general set, hero prop
modelled set
built up, final set

Storytelling and Commission: Jaws - Review

Jaws is the movie directed by Steven Spielberg in 1975 and it represents the horror/thriller genre, more specifically the human-vs-nature type.

It tells a story of Amity Island being under the threat of a giant shark that attacks and kills people. Martin Brody (Roy Richard Scheider) the town police officer decides to close the beaches due to the circumstances, though the mayor - Larry Vaughan, is against such decision. Everything changes when the shark strikes again and kills a young boy.

It might be observed that the terror starts before the shark first attacks, though it’s something considered as generally accepted rules of social ladder. Ewig approaches this aspect of the movie and states in the review: ‘It’s surprising how emotionally devastating this story is, in part because of how disempowered the characters are’ (Ewig, 2010). It is not only about the shark attacks; Jaws creates the tension from the very beginning, realizes the audience how irrelevant and puny ordinary people are, compared to those who are considered as the leaders. It can also be noticed during ‘town meetings’ that people are trying to talk and state their rights, though nobody is actually listening to each other. Only when someone important speaks, the crowd listens, eventually follows the orders. Even Amity Island’s chief Brody can’t decide anything without considering the Mayor’s opinion. It gets only worse when three men set off on the boat to catch and kill the shark.

Second part of the movie presents the battle between the nature and humans. This only doubles the feeling of disempower and fear as the shark is obviously a merciless killer lead by primal urge of feeding itself.

It is said that accidents are artists’ allies and it was the same with Spielberg’s Jaws. Production of the movie was causing many problems; nothing was working according to the plan. The budget went beyond the expected, the time of production prolonged, the mechanical shark started falling apart and Spielberg felt this was the last movie in his career.

Knowing about the technical complications, one would state that Jaws was definitely going to be a disaster. However, thanks to ‘happy accidents’ all the glitches turned out to be the movie’s biggest attributes. Spielberg wanted the shark on the screen all the time, though due to the problems with the rubber-skin and inside mechanism, the screen time for the creature has been cut. It created the unique tension and unbearable anticipation. It worked perfectly not only for the opening of the movie, when a young girl is being attacked, as ‘(…)we see the legs of Chrissie (Susan Blacklinie) slowly treading water from below. We know the danger, but she doesn’t, and she is violently devoured’ (Nesbit, N/A), but also for other under water shots. It is an important aspect of the movie. The audience is not able to see the shark, and that creates the fear of unknown.

The whole accruing tension is being accompanied by the score by John Williams, which is probably one of the most popular scores in the history of the cinema. Known even by people who have never seen the whole movie, the music creates a tension which plays along with the visual aspects of the production. It discretely announces the action and important events, however ‘(…) the use of silence is far more powerful and effective than the score (…)’ (Ewing, 2010). Silence is a strong instrument used before in many horror movies, made by different directors. It changes the fictional scene into more believable situation which could happen to everyone. It’s a delicate aspect which, in hands of an inexperienced movie maker, can destroy the whole receipt of the production. However, the use of silence in Jaws is right on spot. Just as the score might seem funny to a contemporary viewer (as it has been used in many parodies), is makes the attacks even more terrifying and makes the audience forget about the fakeness of the shark.

Summing up, Spielberg’s Jaws might be considered as a timeless movie, which can scare people of any age. This is also an evidence of how unexpected events might sometimes help with creating a piece of art, which in case of Jaws made it an iconic production. Lary states a definitive quotation: ‘It’s a lesson most horror film directors have still not learned’ (Lary, 2012).

* Ewing, Blake James (2010) online source: http://cinemasights.com/?p=3960
* Ewing, Blake James (2010) online source: http://cinemasights.com/?p=3960
* Nesbit, John (N/A) online source: http://oldschoolreviews.com/rev_70/jaws.htm
* Lary, Chip (2012) online source: http://tipsfromchip.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/movie-jaws-1975.html 

2. Stills:
* Still2: 

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Toolkit Animation: Zoetrope

Zoetrope exercise done with Shann:
Santa and presents!

Storytelling: Island Thumbnails

Few thumbnails/speed paints of the island from the story:

Only few angles with change of details and colours. Now onwards to designing the old chthe restaurant and snack bar.