Skatedog Update - February 2012

WELL, NO REST FOR THE WICKED.

Skatedog has continued to steam ahead with a varied workload over the last 6 months.

Firstly we continued and finished the Olympic animation project across the schools of the Capitol, and the finished films were projected as part of the launch ceremony at the Olympic Park. The kids of the Capitol are alright, in fact they are quite wonderful - and still powerhouses of imagination - it is amazing how quickly a child understands how to animate - something about the 'nature of play' I think’Ķ Working with the Amazing Clayground Collective was also inspiring, informative, always a great laugh - a genuine privilege to be involved with, and a not inconsiderable challenge, to work with up to 30 children at once, using traditional air drying clay!

We also delivered INSET Teacher training to several schools in the use of stop motion in class, and helped them choose and install software systems.

Then we worked with the brilliant MAKE BELIEVE ARTS to bring stop motion and animation artistry into their schools transition programme - to this end we created short films to launch the project, and then worked with the transition pupils present to create 2D Paper cut out animation in a fast and furious cyclone of creativity.

A little later we worked as stop motion animation practitioners alongside artists from the Garden Museum of London - here we produced stop motion in open workshops with children as young as two!

Next, our voracious recycling agenda brought us to the attention of the local press, and we found ourselves attracting publicity as 'wombles'’Ķ
We designed and built a recycling Cyborg costume for Lewisham Council, taking waste electrical materials from their recycling depot, and creating WEEE MAN!

(That's Waste Electrical, and Electronic Man, people.)

This was a challenging but fun job - building a comfortable, safe and practical costume from recycled electrical goods was never going to be easy!

We learnt a lot along the way, and were really pleased with the result - even the chap who was put inside the costume was a perfect fit and a more than enthusiastic WEEE MAN’Ķ Hats off to Dave, who made the part his own!

When the costume was created we made a short promotional film to introduce the character when he goes on live activities’Ķ WEEE MAN picked up quite a bit of press, and he seems to go down particularly well with the Younger kids, which is great.

Here's a press clipping about him.

Just look at the kids' faces!

We ventured into a little Journalism next to review the 'Watch me Move' Exhibition of the diversity and history of animation at the Barbican, for 'Art and Music' the magazine of the Saatchi Gallery. We got to see rare Ladislas Starewitch films and puppets here, and also an amazing early film by Willis O'Brien- Kong's animator.

At the same time we have also been working continually on the Skatedog projects, 'Our Age' and 'Maelstrom' - both of which have moved forward significantly - we could not possibly comment on the rumours that 'Our Age' episode 1 is already in the can, or that episode 2 is now being shot’Ķ

'Maelstrom' is simmering away nicely in the background, but the starting line is getting ever closer - and the Robots have been on set very recently. There are furtive plans afoot also for 'Maelstrom' which may see something new shot very soon.

We also have some vague plans for a live action short film.

Educationally, we have been teaching some new areas.

We covered After Effects and Maya for Morley College,
Design for Moving Image, and Advanced Animation and Character Animation for Greenwich University

We have also been very busy with technical development, and have now a functional computer controlled motion control system for a single axis camera control - plans are very advanced to turn this into a true '6 degrees of Freedom' motion control system.

This will allow very complex camera moves to be animated in conjunction with stop motion animation in future. We are incredibly excited by this - and cannot wait to get it into action.

We are also building a Makerbot 3D printer, which will have many uses and advantages for our animation production. Again, we are really excited to be joining the desktop Industrial Revolution.

Skatedog Update - April 2011.

SKATEDOG FILMS have continued to strive ahead with animated business, and quite a lot has continued to happen for us since the last update.

Skatedog have been very involved with the Olympic cultural program, going into 3 schools across London and delivering animated workshops in conjunction with CLAYGROUND COLLECTIVE, a wonderful company specialising in the educational potential of Clay and Ceramics.
This has been a wonderful project to be part of, and has also been a new learning curve, due partly to working with natural Clay as the base material, instead of plasticine.
It has also been great to work with such young students- roughly the 6-8 age range, and inspiring to see the amount of imagination and enthusiasm bursting out of such little people.
We are very pleased and proud of the results that our collaborations here have produced, and hope very much to continue and expand our involvement with educational animation- if you are a school considering running an animated project, or of involving animation within your curriculum delivery, do not hesitate to get in touch- we'd be very pleased to talk to you. We are fully insured for such projects, have full and clean CRB checks in place, and are now members of LONSAS, the London Schools Artists Service. We anticipate and hope to continue building our business profile in the direction of educational animation.
We will be posting examples of the work created across these projects shortly on our VIMEO channel- watch this space.
We are also developing further links with schools and other organisations that utilise animation as an educational or therapeutic tool- we believe passionately in the power of animation to improve educational and therapeutic outcomes. This project has also been fully endorsed and supported by STOPMOTION PRO, the stop motion software company, for which we are very grateful.

Other news includes the ongoing development of our personal projects, the most major of which now has a provisional title- "MAELSTROM" is the project we have been developing for a while now.
It will be an episodic series about the adventures of three slightly malfunctioning robots aboard an abandoned space station- together they must keep the station safe, repair its power supplies, and try to discover what has happened.
Production values on this project are going to be very high indeed, and we have test footage of the initial puppets being tested in terms of their practicality and emotional range- you can see that footage, along with a little test foley sound here:

Other animators have been particularly supportive and encouraging about the footage so far, and this is massively encouraging- the real thing will be much better than what we've shot so far, so please keep checking back as it emerges.
This project is intended for broadcast or to become an ongoing web series, and we will be shortly launching an INDIEGOGO campaign to support its development. Again, if you are interested in this project in any way, please get in touch.

There are also 2 other personal projects in late stages of development, which we'll announce shortly- but they are also looking really good. They have a completely different setting and style.

Educational animation also continues to thrive and improve at our evening classes at Morley College, Waterloo, London- and from September we are expanding the courses we will offer there- to include not only Introductions to stop motion- but also Introductions to Adobe After Effects and Autodesk Maya. We are building a little school in related animation disciplines- anyone interested to know more about these courses is welcome to email me to get more details. Alternatively contact Morley directly here:

www.morleycollege.ac.uk

SKATEDOG have started blogging about the projects recently- detailing experiments and the secrets of constructing puppets and sets for these and recent projects- and this blog has got a great response from other stop motion animators, including some of the biggest names over on stopmotionanimation.com
These are artists we admire and respect hugely, and we are massively encouraged by this. Thanks guys 'n' gals. We love you too.
You can see this blog here:
skatedogblog.blogspot.com

But we'll put a heading up on the menu bar of the site shortly, to get you there directly.
The Blog has been active for a few months now, so there are quite a few postings to delve through, and detailed descriptions of the design process, particularly of the 'MAELSTROM' robots.

The other big news over here is the imminent start of the stop motion Studio Space we've been mentioning for a while- the room is now ready for projects to begin there, and this has massive implications for the strength of our work- the space and materials and tools assembled there guarantee that this place will be a paradigm shift in quality for the next projects- we are going to be able to design and achieve shots that were impossible in our current very limited working space- and also start pushing up the bar into other areas we have been desperate to explore- including machining bespoke armatures properly.

The future is bright over at the studio, and the building is also full of an amazing selection of artists with a huge variety of skills and styles- this will be fantastic to have on hand in the same building.

Lastly, Skatedog have continued their mission to use recycled materials wherever possible on their projects, and this is now starting to have unforeseen repercussions- the local Press has sniffed a story, and reported on Skatedog's recycling agenda in articles for the South London Press, amongst others- this is also having a knock on effect in terms of other interested parties getting in touch regarding project ideas, and offers of further material- keep 'em coming- and if you think you have something going to waste we could potentially use- get in touch!

Click for larger image

Click for larger image

Lastly, it is worth saying SKATEDOG are actively seeking other animators in related or disparate disciplines- we want to build a network of animators in the London areas- we anticipate more work ahead. Get in touch.

Skatedog Films Update - September 2010.


Skatedog have had a very busy time this year - many new projects, and lots of exciting news’Ķ

We have sold out of the first DVD release of 'The Happy Prince', and have ordered a repress- so if you want a copy, you can order via this website- just send a mail to the usual address, and it'll cost you just £5 plus £1.70 p&p- bargain! Alternatively, we have just established a download purchase option, so if you prefer you can download and share with your friends using the new Dynamo website- costing only £4. The Skatedog Home page has the link.

We have been very busy building armatures for several new characters, who will remain under wraps for a little while longer while we check out their test sequences, and designing head armature components for more advanced eye movement.

Commercially, we have worked with Director George Pursall on his 'Dorito Ad' competition entry- this involved a stop motion Dorito diving into a pool of Salsa- we were very proud of the result, and George was kind enough to say we had 'completely exceeded his expectations'- you can see the Ad HERE:
http://vimeo.com/11262782

Next we worked with Somethin' Else, respected production company, on a stop motion animation called 'The Lab' for a Channel 4 website campaign. We pulled out all the stops, and again were told that we had exceeded expectations- in fact, when launched the website described our piece thus:
'Best film on this website? Hell Yeah!' - We can't ask for more than that!
The Ad can be viewed here- please tell people about it if you enjoy.
We also received praise from some very respected animators for this project - thanks!

Here is the youtube link:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=344ApGehLRU

or watch it on the channel 4 playsuperme website here:
http://www.playsuperme.com/videos/thelab/


Recently we have been working on a very complex animation of a model bi-plane being dissembled piece by piece whilst our camera rotates 360 degrees about it, with the incredibly talented Kalpesh Patel directing’Ķ this was a technical challenge we enjoyed hugely for its necessary precision. This piece is not yet available here, but will appear soon.

Skatedog are now moving into studio premises, the first dedicated Skatedog Studio, and are obviously rather excited about that- this will give us the opportunity to further push the technology and potential of our work further forward- and meet greater client needs, whilst also delivering work faster. The Studio is in East Ham, and is part of an artist community managed by Artcore.

John continues to also teach stop motion at Morley College, near Waterloo, London- this year there are 2 courses during most terms- a daytime course and an evening course. Morley now encourage online registration for their courses, so here is a link to their website:
http://www.morleycollege.ac.uk/courses/

Finally, we have several short films in development- 3 micro shorts are being shot concurrently, and we have an idea we think is going to emerge as a series in quite an advanced state- the characters exist, test sequences are being shot, and we are VERY excited by the results.

We would direct you also to the SHOWREEL page where a newer reel from recent footage is available HERE.

All the best- John and Penny.
Skatedog Films Limited.

September 2009

Major Project: The Happy Prince

Our last major project was a 23 minute adaptation of the classic Oscar Wilde short story, The Happy Prince (Click for Press Release). This timeless and poignant story tells the tale of a compassionate but inanimate statue, and the friendship he forms with a helpful swallow as winter approaches. It is a tale of charity, sacrifice and redemption, and remains thoroughly relevant despite being a century old.

The story is realised in a mixture of animation styles - imagine a tale set inside a cardboard theatre, with stop-motion puppetry for the human characters (very much influenced by Jan Svankmaer, the Brothers Quay, Barry Purves and Suzie Templeton), while the animals are a mixture of line animation and computer modelling. It has very much its own style and world, and is charmingly reminiscent of nineteen-seventies animation, with a slower pace and softer humour than most modern animation. Skatedog are committed to trying to evoke a simpler, more craft focussed style of British Animation - moving away from the Hollywood approach of super fast movement, high gloss chrome whistles, and explosions’Ķ

We think there is room in the medium for more than the standard approaches to animated content.

We are about storytelling, pure and simple, rather than photo realism or 'showy' technology - although we know that some projects will work well this way’Ķ But we do not think everything should look the same.

The story centres around the arrival of winter, and self-sacrifice and love, and as such makes it a perfect tale for Winter holiday time, although it could work at any time of year - comparisons have been drawn at preview screenings to such classics as 'The Snowman', and 'The Triplets of Belleville' - comparisons we are honoured and humbled to be mentioned alongside. We also are continually being told 'it looks Eastern European', and if you think that, great. We have certainly been highly influenced by animation from these regions.

The characters are brought magnificently to life by a cast of three brilliant professional actors
Sean Gallagher (Coronation St., Rock Rivals, Dr Who’Ķ)
Penny Layden (Silent Witness, Poppy Shakespeare, Murphy's Law’Ķ)
Jim Conway (coming soon in feature film Badinage.)

The project began life in January 2007 in a local college as part of an exercise by over 100 students working as contributors on a 'real production team' based project - as the level of work improved and increased, so did our ambitions. When the student contribution ended it was clear we had something special, so Skatedog then chose to continue the project, and polish it to a professional level.

The entire project became a labour of love for Skatedog, and although the man-hours spent total well over 3,000 now, the budget has been almost non-existent - almost everything has been crafted personally using materials recycled or found. Even the actors and composer gave their services freely, with an agreement for future profit share.

Including computers, models, and sets, this project has been realised so far for less than £7,000- a figure that would just about cover the coffee and biscuits of a normal 23 minute production. Every part of the project, from conception, storyboarding, scripting, pre-vis, modelling, rigging, animating, lip-sync, rendering, compositing, editing - has all been done in-house. We have had to develop a comprehensive 'pipeline' for the production to ensure that the data is successfully managed - thus far the project has utilised approx 5 terabytes!

Approximately 12 months ago we found our brilliant Producers, Paul Stevens and Jo Hepplewhite, who have been instrumental in raising the game of the entire film, and keeping us poor little desk-bound animators in cheese and wine.

Composer Andrea Possee joined The Happy Prince project about four months before completion, and has composed an amazing professional score for the film, as well as writing our theme music. She has added an amazing amount to the film, and actually inspired us all over again. We are deeply in her debt.

5A studios have committed themselves to mixing the over-all sound for the film, in a whole-heartedly enthusiastic and beyond professional way - again, we are very grateful.

Boinx software, the makers of i-stop-motion HD, have featured the Happy Prince Trailer on their website -
Three trailers are live on youtube already, with nearly 2,000 hits between them, and a 4.5 star rating.

animationsupplies.com, the suppliers of bespoke armature kits, are now working closer with Skatedog on next features. We look forward to developing bigger and better projects in association with this brilliant company.

Happy Prince premiere date was Monday 14th September - 1pm at the British Film Institute, Screen Two on London's Southbank. The cinema was packed, and full of excited faces- and was a resounding success.

The Happy Prince evokes memories of a simpler, gentler world, constantly shifting and surprising, but familiar. The story will touch your heart, and remind all of the genius of Oscar Wilde’Ķ and its message has never been more relevant.

Skatedog are also developing a variety of further projects across a range of styles and media, with a view to creating a broad catalogue of short films with a unique and individual style.