FMP 1: Final Piece

My final piece:

This is the end result of my project and the animation that I would submit if the competition was still live. Overall I’m very happy with it; once again, the pre-production was invaluable and led to a much easier filming and editing process and the end result is as I’d envisioned.

There isn’t anything I’d particularly change about this project if I were to do it again but it didn’t go quite as proficiently as I had hoped. For some reason there was a stretch in the middle where I wasn’t being very productive, whilst it may have been partly down to the Easter holidays, I believe the majority of the blame falls down to the fact that I was a little stuck with where to go. As the brief was so open, I struggled a little with what direction to go and as I didn’t have that initial spark of inspiration (like I did with my FMP 2) I was left wondering. It was after I began working on the storyboards that the project picked up speed again and this is a tactic that I will certainly use in the future; getting tangible material in front of me really helped me visualise what I wanted to achieve and I was able to work from there.

Everyone who has seen the final animation has been favourable of it which gives me hopes for the chances it would have if it was submitted to the competition. I believe, if it is still applicable, that I will submit it in the next annual competition and it will be interesting to see how well I do.

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FMP 1: Editing Process

In this screenshot you can see how all of the clips came together in the final edit.

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As I was very precise with my animatic, and it was cut to exactly the time I wanted, I was able to use it as a guideline when editing my final animation and it made the process a lot easier. Also seen in the above picture are the diegetic sound effects that I recorded and added to the scene. The majority of these sound effects a relatively subtle as to not interfere with the supplied soundbed but there are couple of instances where I left them very audible, when the fish’s head is cut for example. I feel that my additions emphasise the actions within the animation and even add to the audio. Overall I’m very happy with how the animation came together at this stage.

FMP 1: Filming Process

Due to my pre-production work, particularly the animatic, the filming of the animation went relatively smoothly. In the below images, you can see how I set up some of those shots, using rigs to properly position each element. Also seen is how I lit each scene as well as, in the last image, how I set up my camera for the top-down shots.

The only issue that I did have was when I had to do a couple of re-shoots. The following videos are very quick and not particularly well presented but there intent is just to show you the original clip and the updated version. The first video features the different takes I took of the sushi rolling shot. The first clip is the initial clip which I noticed I lit badly and then redid. I was happy with the second clip but when I was editing my final animation together, I realised that it stood out from the other clips as too dark. I attempted to remedy this using some effects and playing with the brightness/contrast but it still didn’t fit the tone of the rest of the animation. As a  result, I reshot the clip entirely and the third clip in the below video is my final result what ended up in the final piece.

The other shot that took a little more work was the opening, fish tank shot as it required some post-production. The first clip in the below image shows a test that I did to create a water effect inside the fish tank but it wasn’t very effective and by the time it came to animate the scene for real, I decided it wasn’t necessary. The second clip features the fully animated scene pre post-production and the last clip is the same but after I digitally erased the rigs so that it would give the impression that the fish was floating.

I usually like to keep all special effects “in camera” but in this case, digital touch ups were unavoidable and I am happy with the result. I’m also glad that I took the time to redo the shots that weren’t working, it was a little frustrating and time consuming but I believe the final piece is much stronger for it.

FMP 1: Building Process

I ended up sticking closely to the designs I created whilst drawing my storyboards, some were adapted slightly but I find that always happens when translating a sketch into a 3D model – I consider the sculpting process to be the final pass of the design where kinks are worked out and the design is finalised. To simplify the modelling stage, and also to speed up production, I only built the aspects of the model that would be in shot, this conservative approach to the puppets also made filming easier as the models had more manoeuvrability and, as I was very precise with my cinematography, I was fairly easy to crop my shots so that only what I wanted seen was on camera.

These are some images of the props and puppets I created for my animation, the image of the left hand is an example of how I only sculpted what was necessary and then, in the adjacent image, how I was able to incorporate it into a larger puppet when the cinematography called for it. The majority of props were made with plasticine but I also used a lot of card (particularly for the knives) as well as wood for the serving board and the chef’s clothes are white cloth that I tailored to the puppet.

FMP 1: Subconscious Inspiration?

As I was working on my storyboards, I noticed a trend emerging. Early in the process I drew this shot: 6

After I’d drawn a few more pages it began to feel out of place. Upon inspection, I realised it was because every other shot was symmetrical and “planimetric”. After I noticed this, I had two options – create more diverse shots or continue in the same vein. I chose the latter as it’s an aesthetic I really like and I felt it gave my animation a strong visual identity.

Whilst I didn’t go into the project with this intention, in hind-sight it seems clear that I’m influenced by director, Wes Anderson. Anderson is a huge inspiration of mine and whilst I try not to pastiche his work, elements of his aesthetic often influence the way I visualise things. However, whilst the cinematography may be Anderson inspired, I don’t believe the rest of the animation is; the supplied audio, for example, is not something one would find in an Anderson project. The colour palette as well, in which I was referencing the colours of E4, are not typical of the auteur (who regularly has a very controlled, warm palette).

Above are some examples of Anderson’s cinematography, displaying his use of symmetry and the precision of each of his shots. The latter two images display a technique that I employed a lot in my own animation; the top-down or “god’s eye view” shot

FMP 1: Storyboards and Animatics

Despite knowing what I wanted to include in my animation, I didn’t have a set narrative. To work around this, I drew non-sequential storyboards, featuring shots that I would potentially include in my E sting, with the intention of editing them together in a sequence that I was happy with.

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Just by laying out my storyboards I was able to make connections and see narratives forming but to get a stronger idea I decided to make animatics – this also gave me a better idea of how the images would work with the music and the timing of the piece. I had previously worked out which soundbed I felt the most connection to (a track named “Dirty Fast Bass”) so I used that audio to cut my images to. I later experimented with another track (“EDM”) but returned to my original as I believed I was getting better results with it.

As you can see in the above video, it was versions 5 and 6 that I changed the audio for but found the beat too regular which resulted in a regimented, boring video. I made the first seven in one sitting and after reviewing them, I decided that version 1 was my favourite but I wasn’t happy with how repetitive it was. Versions 8 and 9 were my attempts to refine the animatic and in the end, it was version 8 that I decided should be my animation.

FMP 1: More Reference

When looking for more visuals and specifics that I would be able to incorporate into my animation, I stumbled across the website Secrets of Sushi. The website contains countless resources that I will be able to use, from analysis of the specific knives used to tutorials of how to roll sushi. This information will certainly elevate the level of accuracy of my animation. It will also inform my acting choices- how the knife is held, for example, and what cutting motions are used.

FMP 1: Kazari Maki and “Sushi Art”

Creating patterns in sushi rolls, as it turns out, is not a new phenomenon. When looking for “sushi art” I came across the term ‘kasari maki’ which are decorative sushi rolls, made with coloured rice that come in a range of complexity and shape. There is actually already an artist who works in kasari maki: Takayo Kiyota a.k.a. Tama-chan.

Tama-chan uses dyed rice and careful planning to create detailed kasari maki featuring anything from pop culture references to replicas of famous works of art (as seen below). However, whilst it shows me the possibilities of the “medium”, and somewhat legitimises my concept, it doesn’t really give me anything to work from. I guess that’s because I already know what the sushi will look like and it’s the process of how it’s made that I need reference for – so whilst this was an interesting discovery, it wasn’t particularly inspiring.

In a similar vein, I found other variations of sushi being used as an art form and whilst they don’t inform my project, I thought they’d be worth highlighting. Artist Mayuka Nakamura, for example, created a literal gunkan maki (which translates to battleship roll). The company I&S BBDO and a man named Umino Hiroyuki are producing intricate nori for added decoration to sushi rolls.

Outside of edible sushi, I found this wooden block set designed to educate children about sushi from Tsumiki-Sushi. Whilst this also doesn’t offer a jumping off point into a new well of research, I do love it. I think the set is gorgeous and I adore the aesthetics of it; really clean and geometric but there’s still a handmade feel to it with the texture that comes through the paint. I believe the set looks beautifully crafted and it’s an aesthetic that I hope to get across in my animation.

FMP 1: E4 Fish

I was looking into the different fish, and even other ingredients used, in the production of sushi to see if there was a purple element that would stand in for the purple of the E4 logo. I was unable to find such a thing, closest to what I was looking for would be tuna but that’s really more of a dark magenta/maroon and not nearly as vibrant as I would like.

I was actually only able to find one purple fish and it isn’t even edible: the Purple Queen Anthias. I also thought, going back to my primary school history lessons, of the purple secretion produced by several species of rock snail that is used to make tyrian purple dye. Just as the purple fish are inedible, I don’t find the idea of sea snails to be a particularly appetising one (not that purple sushi would ever be particularly appealing). It’s not an issue, however, as I never wanted my animation to be 100% accurate. That being said, I’d rather create a fantasy create for my animation than use a specific yet obscure and inedible one; I feel it falls more in line with the E4 aesthetic.

 

 

FMP 1: Sushi

Perhaps it’s just my ignorance of the subject but researching sushi was more complicated than I imagined, although if I knew everything already I imagine there would be no need for research in the first place. To begin my exploration of the topic, I found out the different types of sushi that existed. What made this a little tricky is the fact that some sources translate the names of the dishes slightly differently, what I believe I’ve worked out, however, is that there are two main styles of sushi (with subcategories falling under those).

The first is ‘maki’ or ‘makizushi’, which is the rolled sushi and arguably the most recognisable. The second is ‘nigiri’ or ‘nigirizushi’ which is a hand-pressed bed of rice , typically topped with a piece of fish known as a ‘neta’. The rice itself is the most important aspect of the dish and is specially prepared in a manner known as ‘sushi-meshi’ which gives it the properties needed.

Nigiri tends to be the most consistent, there are lots of different names for the dish but the only difference between each one is the neta. Sake (salmon) and maguro (tuna) for example are among the more popular nigiri.

Maki has a lot more variation and therefore has a few subcategories, the most outstanding of which is probably the ‘temaki’ which is a hand-rolled maki that comes in a cone shape rather than the iconic cylinder. All maki is rolled in a dried sheet of seaweed known as ‘nori’ which is made from a specially cultivated algae, all types of maki use half a sheet of nori except for the ‘futomaki’ which uses a whole sheet and is hence much larger, although that is the only difference between it and regular maki. The ‘uramaki’, also known as an “inside out roll” is very similar to a regular maki except the rice is on the outside, created to appeal to westerners who were put off by the seaweed exterior. The final form of maki is the ‘gunkan’, it starts life similar to a nigiri in that the rice is hand-formed but that is then wrapped in nori and a loose topping is added; typically fish roe.

As well as the names of sushi I was able to find out some of its associated products. Sushi chefs use a bamboo rolling mat to shape the maki, they also use wasabi paste (made from the root of the wasabi plant) as both a flavouring as well as an adhesive. Sushi is also served with soy sauce as a condiment and pickled ginger as a palate cleanser.

The programme ‘How it’s Made’ has long been a guilty pleasure of mine and I was delighted to find an episode that highlighted sushi, it may not be the best quality but it was certainly interesting and has given me my first insight into how sushi is produced – something that I’m sure I will explore further.

This bought of research has been invaluable, not only has it given me some more visuals to experiment with but I have discovered additional aspects that I could potentially include in my E sting, specifically the presentation side of sushi. I will have to make a decision down the line what aspect I would like to focus on for my animation – the preparation of the sushi or the presentation (and potential consumption) of the sushi. At this point in time, I’m leaning towards the preparation being the focus. To tie in with my desire of having a reveal, I feel that a chef creating a maki roll and then presenting the finished dish with the E4 logo configured within it is the way to go.