Monday, 27 December 2010

Merry Christmas Bloggers!

Hello all, hope you're having a wonderful time over the holidays with friends and family!

Here in the UK, we're having some pretty cold temperatures, we have frozen frost on top of frost on top of snow and ice! But apart from permanently wearing slippers and woolly jumpers, Christmas has been good! I've had a great time with my family and enjoyed the usual seasonal television. The Doctor Who Christmas special was pretty good--Michael Gambon as the "scrooge" character was perfect and the story was very emotive... But even better was the upcoming Doctor Who teasers! There's going to be a Wild West episode and Matt Smith adopts a stetson! YES PLEASE! <3

I've got a lot on my plate the next two weeks--what with the pile of DVDs and games to get through! Not to mention my animation work and essay, mind! I'm looking forward to seeing Fantasia, Beauty and the Beast and Inception on Blu-Ray and I've already started my game of Epic Mickey, which is appropriately epic. I have heard some problems with controlling the camera however, and after some gamplay, I can see what they mean! It's quite sluggish and has a tendency to get stuck but it's otherwise very cool! Can't wait to play more!

I've also been having a jam on Rock Band 3 (unfortunately without the new keyboard attachment!) it's introduced some great new challenges and character customisation. It's odd not to have the tour campaign mode though. Also Bohemian Rhapsody and Power of Love for the win! <3

As a treat, I drew my sisters and my boyfriend some gift art for their Christmas cards... Alex got a speedpaint of the Elric Brothers from Full Metal Alchemist, Elly got herself and a "cow bunny" (her new obsession!) inspired from a photo on DeviantArt and Emi got a "Downtonified" version of herself, based off of Cora from Downton Abbey. Enjoy the artwork!

Speaking of Downton Abbey, Emi got me to watch the entire first season on DVD and I absolutely loved it. It's very intense and entertaining and yet so subtle... the slightest gesture or remark has such an impact on their world and it's wonderful seeing the character interaction. The last episode was so gripping--I didn't want it to end! I highly recommend it to any fans of Drama, early 1900's period pieces, and ITV television!

Anyway, for the next two weeks, I'll be working solidly to get an essay done, create a remixed soundtrack based on famous icons and old black and white films (it's going to be my first piece of music ever, so I have no idea how it will turn out!) for my soundscape animation and I'll be finishing my Hyacinth Bucket lip sync animation as well as two more animation exercises for Uni... and hopefully will be able to do plenty of movie watching and Epic Mickey and Assassin's Creed Brotherhood! :)

That's all from me, I'll sign off now with a very Merry Christmas to you all! :3
Love Gem xxx

Monday, 13 December 2010

Another Term Gone

Well it's been a while bloggers, November was pretty silent for me, mostly because I had a very intense project deadline at the end of the month as well as my Uni coursework. Can't reveal anything of it yet, but I'll post it up when I can! It was a real relief to have finished it on time though, I can tell you! I was up until 3am working on it on the last day and awake again 6 hours later to finish it!

So that's my excuse for the lack of posts, after that I had to have a major de-stress and play lots of Assassin's Creed Brotherhood and the secret case on the first Phoenix Wright game (which I've now finished :D) and watch lots of movies to unwind!

Anyway, apart from that, Uni work has been going well. I am a bit behind due to the previously mentioned mystery project, with lots to do for 2D character animation, Soundscape and of course the glorious essay to write that is due at the end of January.

Here's a couple of things I've finished/working on now...

Whatchamacallit: a short audio/visual statement I made with Zara and Rob. It's not perfect, and was a bit long/complicated for the brief. I had some problems animating my section (the middle part) so resorted to doing some random animation in Flash... we learned a lot through this and I aim to do things a bit differently next time!

Danielle Rescues a Mouse [Rough] : my rough animation for a younger Danielle rescuing a mouse from the clutches of a younger Fred. It was originally going to be the final line, but after scanning, I realised there were a lot of messy issues that would need redrawing. The brief was to animate a character opening something that refuses to do so.

My next animation I'm drawing in pen, and it's a dialogue scene between Hyacinth and Richard Bucket from Keeping Up Appearances, but I've re-modelled them to look more like a visual representation of their personalities and more like my own characters. I chose this because I really wanted to animate some older characters, especially after seeing 90-year-old Sophie's delightful performance from Howl's Moving Castle again. :)

Here's the original scene, I'm just taking Hyacinth's dialogue from "Richard, did you see this?" to "Why should I wait?"

Here are my model sheets.

I've also recently given a 10 minute presentation on the effects of the "uncanny valley": a term used for when human-like androids cross the boundary of familiarity into a creepy and repulsive domain, except I was applying it instead to human CGI (see: Tom Hanks from The Polar Express).

I doubt you're interested in my Power Point or my notes, but it went well and the only thing I was really called up on was the relevance of "uncanny" to an image, when live action is technically a series of images anyway and at what point is something not "human" anymore? It was pretty terrifying though, everyone looked nervous talking about their subjects (usually the results of addiction/violence, or lack of, from video games) and it was very nerve-wracking! Glad to get it out of the way though and I was pleased to have taught something to the others too!

Anywhoodle, last weekend half of the household (3 of 6) housemates left here and it's suddenly feeling really sad and empty (although incredibly clean!) and so, so, so, so quiet! :( My first term of my second year at Uni has passed so quickly and it's going to be so sad to say goodbye to it all! :( But I'm rather looking forward to going home now and seeing the family! And I have all of my Christmas shopping sorted so I have 4 weeks to chill and catch up with work! :D

That's all from me for now, I'm off to play more Assassin's Creed Bortherhood before bed! :D
Love Gem

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

A New House, Birthdays and The Social Network

Hello again bloggers,

I finally moved down to Newport a few weeks ago and so far I'm loving the new house along with living with my Uni friends. It can get complicated when it comes to cooking and cleaning, but we seem to be managing so far!

The place is really nice, it's on a brand new estate and really close to the new campus, so it'll be great when we don't have to take the bus to lessons!

My course is going really well, I'm learning the CGI software, Maya, which is incredibly complicated, but I'm learning quite quickly. I'm specialising in 2D animation for my current semester in which I'll be doing more character performance animation (I should be bringing back Danielle and Fred for at least one exercise!) and a soundscape project, which is about merging sound and image but thinking primarily about the sounds.

So far I have a "pulling an object that refuses to budge" animation to do and 10 sounds to find and record.

I also have this short stop-motion exercise that I did with Zara to demonstrate moving inanimate objects with emotion... My object was the "excitable" scissors, her's were the "irritated" gloves and the scene is a murder! :O

And as the title suggests, there have been a couple of birthdays! My boyfriend Alex had his over the weekend--we went back home to enjoy the celebrations with family, it was a great trip! :) My birthday was just yesterday... 20 years old! Shocking, I know. :P

I got some great presents, including Mass Effect 2 (YAY!), The Beauty and the Beast art book, The UP art book, the Deathnote anime boxset, Pinocchio and The Fox and the Hound on DVD, Ashes to Ashes boxset (haven't seen it yet but loved Life on Mars!), Alter Bridge's "AB III", Professor Layton and the Lost Future and Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light! It's been a good year ha ha!

But getting older has got me thinking... On the train back to Newport I was listening to Metric's "Fantasies" album on the day of my birthday, "Sugar Mountain" comes on (I believe it's a cover of Neil Young??). And I'm sat listening to these lyrics:

Now you say you're leavin' home
'Cause you want to be alone.
Ain't it funny how you feel
When you're findin' out it's real?

Oh, to live on Sugar Mountain
With the barkers and the colored balloons,
You can't be twenty on Sugar Mountain
Though you're thinking that
you're leaving there too soon,
You're leaving there too soon.

I just thought at the time how strikingly appropriate it was for that to come on the day that I'm 20... it's sad not to be a teenager anymore and scary to think about growing up and leaving home... but at the same time it's something everyone goes through and at heart, you'll always be a teen really. I think it would be sad to lose that in yourself. It's a great song though, really strikes those chords in you!

So yeah, I guess I was feeling rather retrospective in that sense, but then I got here and there were balloons and streamers everywhere (they're still up actually) and I was given a beautiful hand drawn portrait of me by my friend Bryony and we all went out for dinner and a film and I got another awesome card drawn by Zara of Alex and I as Scott Pilgrim styled characters and we came back home for birthday cake I felt much better! :3

Ah well, save those thoughts for another time, huh?

Speaking of the film I saw, it was The Social Network if you hadn't guessed by the mysterious titling of my blogs.

So The Social Network... it's basically about the founders of Facebook, how it came about and such, I think it's based on a book that was based on the real story, so the film is probably pretty diluted or exaggerated by this point.

While it was an entertaining film, I'm not sure what all of the fuss was about. It was full of number and figures, legal battles and people arguing over who did what first... not that there's anything particularly wrong with that, but at times it almost became boring. That doesn't happen to me often in a cinema, and I think the main problem was to do with the characters.

First off, the main character, (the co-founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg played by Jesse Eisenberg) is an arse. This is established from the very beginning of the film; he's an immature, stuck-up genius who's bitter after a break up with his girlfriend (which was his fault in the first place) with a single friend to his name and constantly looks like this:

So I gave him a shot, I thought: "Ok, so he's not exactly a positive character, let's see how he develops throughout the film." But that was the problem, he didn't develop, he stayed the same and possibly even became worse. Perhaps this was the intention of the film makers; to make a film with an unlikeable main character or perhaps this was staying true to the original story or people... but how does that make an engaging film with character's people can relate to?

Zuckerberg was only occasionally funny (such as going to a business meeting in your dressing gown and pyjamas or creating a multi-billion dollar company just to have a business card that reads "I'm CEO, bitch!"), he talked too fast and was usually uninteresting. Nothing against Jesse Eisenberg (I thought he was great in Zombieland) or the original creator of course, my issues are with the actual screenplay.

From my perspective, the only likable characters were the two women in the film intelligent enough to tell Zuckerberg that he was an arse and his "best friend" Eduardo Saverin (played by future Spiderman, Andrew Garfield) who gets screwed over by him. Saverin was a far more likable character and he wasn't even the protagonist!

But complaining aside, there were definitely some good things about this movie. For a start, the music. Where can you go wrong with a soundtrack by Trent Reznor? It was atmospheric and intense and it had me thoroughly enjoying the first 30 minutes. The cinematography and casting was also pretty good. The shots were great visually (especially considering it was mostly people talking) and the acting was really good. I was particularly impressed by Justin Timberlake, he was very convincing as the paranoid, broke businessman, Sean Parker.

Having not read the original book, "The Accidental Billionaires" I don't know what the original intentions of the story were. It could just be one of those stories that sound great at first, but when put into a narrative based film, it just doesn't work. I wouldn't say it's a bad film, and it's certainly worth seeing, but I found it rather over-rated.

Anyway, enough of my ramblings. It's been a good day today and there's been enough negativity there! I had a really interesting workshop about sound this morning and spent the afternoon chilling and had a great home-made lasagne for dinner! I've also got my Mum and Sisters over this Thursday so really looking forward to that! :)

I'll be blogging again soon, but for now, ciao!
Love Gemma xxx

Monday, 20 September 2010

New Projects, Sherlock and MUSE!

Hello again bloggers,

It's been a while! I keep saying I need to make these updates smaller and more frequent, but I've really been so busy! I have a brand new project on the horizon with some clients which should get some great exposure down the line. I can't talk about it just yet, but I'll post up my work for it when I can. It's all very exciting!

I'm currently working on a big piece inspired from one of my favourite songs from the alternative rock band, Blue October. It's a slow song for them and very emotive.

18th Floor Balcony by Blue October

My piece is a rather sad interpretation of it, but one that is very relaxing for me to paint, even though I'm really pushing myself in terms of lighting, colour, anatomy and detail. I'm making an effort to push boundaries and I really hope it shows in the final result!

Here is a special preview for my readers. :3

It's just a small crop of the full thing for now, as the other half still looks pretty horrifying! I'm open for comments/crits on it as it stands for now though!

In other news, I've just finished the BBC Sherlock series yesterday with my sisters. It's a fabulous piece of work, in writing, acting and cinematography.

Written by the writers of recent Doctor Who series, Sherlock is essentially the modern update of the original stories. Not having read them, I don't know how accurate of an update it is, but knowing the character of Sherlock Holmes, I can definitely say that Benedict Cumberbatch (yes that is his real name, brilliant isn't it?) does an incredible job of redefining the character in a modern setting.

The transition from Victorian London to present-day London is both huge and subtle, but works so well. Instead of a pipe, Sherlock uses nicotine patches on his arm to help him think, instead of Watson's journal he writes an internet blog: it's simple, but effective.

The series comprises of three 80-minute episodes and the second season will see its first broadcast Autumn 2011.

The writing and editing of the series is fast-paced, smart and oh so witty. The partnership between Holmes and Watson (Martin Freeman) is electric and the way they bicker like a married couple is entertaining and done in a really fresh way.

So if you haven't watched that, I recommend checking it out. It's on DVD in most shops now.

I'm a little late on talking about this, but a couple of weeks ago, I was privileged enough to go and see Muse perform live in Manchester with my boyfriend, courtesy of his parent's!

It was a stunning experience, supported by Pulled Apart by Horses, Band of Skulls and Editors! The first band weren't my thing, but Band of Skulls were a pleasant surprise and Editors were as fab live as they are on their album.

Muse really were something else though. I've never seen such a visually spectacular performance live on stage! They had a mini-stage rise above the crowds, streamers pop out at the audience during "Guided by Light", great costumes, giant eyeballs bounced across the stadium and great lighting effects! And the vocals and music was even better than the recorded tracks! Utterly flawless!

Easily one of the best gigs I've been to, it's up there with Radiohead 2 years ago and Peter Gabriel at hyde Park the year before that--wow! <3

Also got myself an awesome Muse hoodie! <3

Well, that's all from me for now. I'm moving into my lovely new house in Newport in a couple of weeks and have a weekend away at Alton Towers with my Mum and sisters, so can't wait for that! :3

Also just found out that the elusive The Lion King is finally seeing a DVD re-release in Autumn 2011 along with Bambi this Spring 2011! :D Cannot wait!! :D

Ta ta for now!
Love Gem xxx

P.S. My Mass Effect is working now! Got it cleaned up at Game for £5, yippee! :D

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Burned Mass Effect and Scott Pilgrim vs The World

Hi again all, it's been another long while, but I'm trying to make these updates more frequent!

I got pretty frustrated this morning, as it's the weekend, I thought I'd chill out on my game on Mass Effect. I recently acquired Dr. T'Soni and am doing some non-story related missions, it's my first playthrough (4 years late I know) so I'm enjoying the dialogue choice wheel and inventing my very own lead character. (Her name is Danielle Shepard, a hard-working commander with a 'don't mess with me' attitude, vivid red hair, high morals and a sometimes harsh sense of justice. She has a soft spot for Kaidan and Garrus. She is determined to bring Saren down!)

So I'm playing the game with no problems, when I accidentally knock the TV remote down the back of the radiator. It's the kind of obstacle that is too close to the wall to reach down, but far enough to allow a nice gap for items to fall down. In the struggle to get the remote free of this gap, I knock my Rock Band guitar over which in turn, knocks the Xbox 360. If you've ever had any experience with this, you'll know that when you knock or so much as walk past an Xbox when a disc is in use, the laser will burn a ring into it, rendering it unreadable. So now I have to take it into Game or wherever to get cleaned and it wasn't even mine. (Sorry Alex! T_____T)

After that, I decided I'd had the last straw with the messy state of the room, and literally spent the next four hours tidying up and putting aside old books and toys for charity (kinda ironic that I would do this after seeing Toy Story 3, but the stuff was more educational or cheap stuff anyway). Although the room is far from empty, it is considerably more organised and feels must less claustrophobic. *thumbs up.... collapses*

So aside from that, I recently saw the long-awaited Scott Pilgrim vs The World on the big screen. Unlike most fans, I haven't actually read the comics yet, but I was very excited to see the film.

Directed by Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) and starring Michael Cera (Juno), Scott Pilgrim vs The World is a film adaptation of the best selling graphic novels by Canadian author and artist, Bryan Lee O'Malley. The black and white comics themselves have a pretty sweet art style and I look forward to reading them for myself soon!

But back to the movie. Scott Pilgrim vs the World is an awesome film. I went to see it with average expectations, but it really rose above them. This is a film made by geeks, for geeks. It is the most faithful film for gamers I've ever seen. The opening title includes a pixellated "sprite" Universal logo, complete with midi-type music and gaming references are everywhere: from Zelda music and sound effects, to gameplay mechanics (i.e. enemies burst into coins upon defeat).

So the story follows Scott Pilgrim, a 22-year-old "loser" who plays bass in the band "Sex-Bob-Omb", and is getting over a previous scarring relationship by dating a 17-year-old high-schooler (the adorable Knives Chau). And that's when Ramona Flowers enters his life. A mysterious young woman with brightly coloured hair who works for who takes Scott's breath away. However, things get complicated when he discovers that to be with her, he must defeat her 7 evil ex's... that was unexpected!

As far as I know, the story is pretty similar to the source material (albeit a few changes), so it's difficult to critique the film without in turn critiquing the books, so I won't go into details there. Instead I'll turn to the visuals, which are pretty stunning. It's a prefect blend of beautiful cinematography composited with graphic illustration which represent the manga's sound effect writing (like D's coming from bass guitars and Batman-like Kapow!'s for punches). Although these aren't necessary for film, they are an interesting factor on screen and draw more attention to the sound aspect of the film, which is incredible.

I also very much enjoyed the opening credits animation which looked very reminiscent of Len Lye's "Swinging the Lambeth Walk". It was cool, flashy and colourful. I very much doubt it was a coincidence!

A lot of attention was paid to the film's sound design, there were lovely game-like sound effects everywhere: Young Neil playing Zelda on the Nintendo DS, the raising of an eyebrow was accompanied by a Window's 'beep' and of course the timing was right on the dot. The second superstar evil ex first appears along with the Universal introduction music, cricking his neck in time to the drums, which is hilarious.

The music is also ideal. The Sex Bob-Ombs have some great tunes, and so do the 'Clash at Demonhead', a very popular band in the film that play a song from the real band, Metric. I gotta say I love their song "Black Sheep". I've been addicted to it and the scene that it appears in... gives me shudders! I also love their special rendition of Zelda's "Fairy Fountain" theme in one of Scott's dream sequences, it has a real air of mystery to it and feels so ethereal.

Now down to the nitty gritty, I was very impressed by Michael Cera's acting in this film. He is a great actor and plays the character excellently but he has unfortunately been type-cast so badly in previous films, audiences find it difficult to take him seriously. This film changed my mind about him, but it can be off putting for others. My favourite character however, was Kimberly Pine (pictured above) for her blunt attitude and cheeky freckles!

I particularly liked the action sequences and editing of the film (I'm a big fan of Edgar Wright's "Spaced" so I'm pretty familiar with his style) and it brings a great artistic quality to the film that pushes the boundaries of live action, which is great! My favourite part of the film is when Matthew Patel bursts through the fabric of reality and challenges Scott to a duel to the death; suddenly the film is transformed and the amazing and fantastic imagery is left for you to decide whether it's really happening or in Scott's imagination. However, there are some areas in which there is more to be desired.

For a start, characters do not evolve well during the film and have little or no character arc. There is a progression to Scott's character, but it is only shown at the beginning and at the end and there isn't development throughout. Ramona also doesn't show a lot of change, and doesn't show a lot of feeling towards Scott. Does she even say that she lesbians--I mean... loves him? It didn't even feel like he resolved things properly with his last ex, Envy. Initially I thought this would be a massive development towards the end, but her storyline ends quite abruptly.

I also found the ending a tad weak (apart from the awesome last battle sequence, THAT'S awesome), but that's partly to do with the character development. Also, there isn't a lot of reason for Scott to start chasing Ramona Flowers when he's already with the equally lovely Knives Chau, but again, this is an element of the graphic novels, so I won't start ripping into it! :P

Sadly, Scott Pilgrim vs The World is bombing at the box office, it hasn't even made half of the money used to make this film back yet. And it's such a shame! I really hope this changes soon, it's a fantastic film and a wonderful adaptation. It shows the movie industry how comic films should be: creative, romantic, action-packed, visually stunning, hilarious and above all, fun!

Obviously the target audience are gamers of the 80s-90s, so if you don't fit into this category you won't get all of the jokes, but it's still a great film regardless of your gaming experience. I'm giving this film a definite 9/10, for being great, regardless of box office results!

Check out this review on why this film is flopping on That Guy With The, "Distressed Watcher" explains it much better than I could!

5 Reasons Why Scott Pilgrim Flopped

Now go and see Scott Pilgrim vs The World now and decide how wow-cool-fantastic-awesome-super-epica it is for yourself!! :3

That's all from me right now, I'll be back soon! Ciao!
Lesbians from, Gemma xxx

New artwork on DeviantArt

Some of my latest digital artwork: a request of my boyfriend's Halo 3 character, a Piggy Portrait commission, and my tribute to Toy Story 3: Hay un amigo en mí!

Halo 3: Extermination by *AmberDust on deviantART

Commission: Piggy Portrait by *AmberDust on deviantART

El Buzzo y Jessie by *AmberDust on deviantART

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Summer Goings-On and Toy Story 3!

Hello all, I must say, the lack of new posts from me has been abysmal, even by my standards! Apologies for this, Summer has been a surprisingly busy time, so here's a blast of what's been going on...

To begin, I have survived my first year of University unscathed and with grade A marks, apart from my last essay on feminism in animation which was only written in a week and received a B! XD I have thoroughly enjoyed my first year and made lots of friends, some of whom I've been able to meet over the holidays which has been great. All of my recent work can be seen on my Vimeo and Youtube pages.

One piece in particular I would like to highlight is an animatic (like a moving storyboard) that myself and Jess wrote and drew together. Only the music is not ours (from the How to Train Your Dragon and Up soundtracks). We have received some great feedback for it, so thought it would be good to share! We're hoping to have it fully animated one day!

Next up, to keep myself busy over the summer, I've completely redesigned my personal portfolio at which now sports an animated banner and some floral backgrounds. I've changed it in the hope of appealing more to visitors and being easier to browse! I'm also taking commissions for various art and animation needs, so spread the word! I've already got a couple, so grab a slot before they're gone! :P

AmberDust Studios - Online Portfolio of Gemma Roberts

And on the side I've been making a lot of changes around Final Fantasy World; embedded Wordpress into the main page for updating FF news complete with personal avatars for commenting; written a review for Final Fantasy XIII (a game with undelivered potential!); and made a Facebook and Twitter page to follow us!

It's been very sad to see so many brilliant Final Fantasy fan sites disappear in recent years, so I'm determined to keep FFWorld going!

Next week, I'm looking forward to "house-sitting" at my boyfriend's while his parents and sister are on holiday--will be nice to spend some time together! As Alex is a film maker, we're thinking of doing some proper script-writing, or perhaps recording a song (as he plays guitar) since he has been doing some great covers on his own recently!

I recently completed a 2-year-old painting that had been left to gather digital dust during the busy months of college, so that was nice to have it see the light of day! It's on DeviantArt now! :)

But now, onto the real thing that's been on my mind since finally seeing it this afternoon...

This is it, the end of Toy Story 3... it is the most funny, sweet, charming, honest, beautiful and heart-breaking films I have seen this year. But what do I expect; it's Pixar!

Growing up with the original two films, feels like they were preparing me for the finale, the day when Andy finally grows up and starts to forget his old toys. Faced with a lifetime stuck in the attic, being donated to a daycare centre or thrown out with the garbage is really the toughest moment for the toys so far and goes from bad to even worse.

Pixar really could not have done a better job with this film. Everything we had come to expect and more was granted. If you watch this as a child, you can appreciate it for your own experiences with toys; as a teenager, you associate with the memories when you had to leave for college, give away your old toys and let things go; and as an adult you may remember the same experiences, but perhaps it is Andy's mother seeing her son's empty room and saying good bye to him that is what you take away from this film.

They is really something for everyone in Toy Story 3. If you like action and adventure, it's here, if you like comedy then this is probably Pixar's funniest film next to The Incredibles thanks to the hilarity of Buzz in "Spanish mode" (I don't think I've ever been in a cinema full of people laughing so much), if you like romance then there's a lovely subplot with Jessie and Buzz, if you like animation then there's plenty to see with expert character animation and an abundance of locations all gorgeously conceived by Daisuke Tsutsumi's brilliant art direction.

Even if you just like films is general, this is a film that must be seen. It's fantastic on the big screen and although it's great in 3D, it's not particularly necessary as they do not use it for gratuitous and "gimmicky" 3D effects and shoot it like a regular animated film anyway. So it's equally as good in 2D.

The opening is pure genius, giving the toys an epic 'runaway train' adventure through Andy's rather cinematic imagination and referencing the opening scene of the first film in such an original way. The traditional "short", Night & Day, was a marvelous piece of work that opened Toy Story 3 very appropriately. It was lovely to see 2D and 3D merge so seamlessly and work! 

I thought that How to Train Your Dragon earlier this year would be a tough one to beat (being Dreamwork's best film thus far in my opinion!) but Toy Story 3 has really blown it out of the water. I loved the direction they took with the characters, even though there are fewer than the previous films (I was already sad at the beginning to find out that some memorable ones had been lost!) but it allowed them to concentrate on what mattered. It's consistently funny and witty throughout with some great lines from Mr Potato Head, Buzz Lightyear and even Barbie!

I also noticed that there was less dialogue for Slinky Dog and wondered whether this was out of respect for the death of Jim Varney, although he did have some lines voiced by Blake Clark.

With every year, Pixar seem to become better and better with their films, and the Toy Story series, I believe, is an example of this. Toy Story 3 shines out from the rest as screen-writing perfection. There is nothing I would change about the ending of this film, and will enjoy re-watching this series for years to come. IMBD has collectively given this a 9/10, but I have to go one step further and give it a 10/10 for concluding their story in such an emotionally satisfying way and giving these loveable characters the send-off that they deserve. You've outdone yourself Lee Unkrich.

That's all from me for now, but I'll probably be reporting again next week after seeing Inception (I've heard good things about it, but doubt it's ability to topple my view of Toy Story 3 which I'll definitely be seeing again soon!) so check back soon!

Bye for now! :)
Love Gemma

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

FFXIII Collector's Edition and First Impressions

The long awaited Final Fantasy XIII for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 is out today in Europe, America and Australia. My collector's edition for the 360 arrived this morning and it is full of goodies! Here are some quick pictures I took of the collection, please excuse the bedsheets as the background and the mobile phone quality!

Along with the game, you receive a hardback art book of various character renders and screenshots ("The World of Final Fantasy XIII"), a ten song soundtrack including the fantastic battle theme "Blinded by Light" and notes on each song by the composer Masashi Hamauzu, three double-sided art prints of the party members and their Eidolons, and two stickers of the l'Cie mark. Overall it's a great buy and well worth the cash. The 360 and PS3 versions are virtually the same, but go for the PS3 if you have the funds as the visuals are noticeably different.

First Impressions
Having not played very far yet, I can't give too much information, but here are my first impressions of the game minus the spoilers!

First of all, this game plays like a dream, no matter what console you bought it for. Moving through locations is seamless and the addition of 'auto-jumping' through the scenery makes it very interactive too. Treasure chests have been replaced with Treasure Spheres and Save Points (which double as your shops now) are in plentiful supply so you won't have to replay great chunks of the game over again.

Healing between battles is gone now as your party are automatically regenerated after every battle, a nice feature but very different. You'll also notice there is no way of upgrading/leveling your characters in the beginning, but hold on for an hour or so as this changes later.

This time round your party members are left to their own devices to explore the terrain, and you don't have to worry about them keeping up with you as they appear with you when you enter a battle. You can also hear your characters talking among themselves at certain story points, which is also interesting to spot. You can read this dialogue too if you switch subtitles on.

Battle System
In FFXIII the battle system has been revamped almost beyond recognition. But don't worry, it retains a nice mixture of old turn-based RPG elements but with more action based visuals like in Kingdom Hearts and much, much faster gameplay.

At first, it's all so new and different you might find yourself feeling a little confused by the fast-paced action, but it quickly becomes such an immersive experience you'll feel like you've been playing it for years.

Instead of playing as all of your party members, you play as a single 'lead' character (think of Kingdom Hearts here) and your party support you as AI. You can control what role they take in battle by assigning them on the menu and customising a selection of different roles for your characters to switch between by using 'Paradigm Shift' during battle later in the game.

You select a string of attacks and commands to fill your 'ATB' gauge as a 'stack' of commands and pick a target to attack. Your character then inflicts all of these commands on the enemy in one smooth flow of combos. They then return to a neutral position and you can choose new commands while your ATB gauge refills. It's an extremely quick system for which you'll be thankful that you only have to play as one character!

Another nice touch is that Potions now effect all of your party instead of just one. But if you're lead character dies, then it's Game Over. If another member dies though, then they can easily be revived with a Phoenix Down.

A great leveling system is implemented a bit later in the game that allows you to earn points in battle and spend them on new upgrades. This is set up a bit like the Sphere Grid in FFX, which was a very enjoyable system and it's fantastic to see a similar one make a return. Each character has their own 'grid' and a separate grid for each available role. I'm looking forward to seeing this system develop!

Being a Final Fantasy game, they are usually all about story. And thus far, Final Fantasy XIII does not disappoint. The introduction of the game itself is quite vast in scale and full of action. There is still plenty to be fleshed out, but the game's set up promises to be a full on epic with well-developed characters, we hope!

The graphics go without saying, even from early screenshots this game was stunning and to play it for yourself is breath taking. The details in hair and clothes are amazing and the scenery and cut scenes are gorgeous. It really has to be seen first-hand!

The main in-game menu of this game is really beautiful. When you select a character to view their status etc, a short FMV quality clip plays of them as the background image before fading to black and white so you can see the text more clearly. It's a lovely addition that leaves me switching through the characters all the time just to see it!

Sound and Voice Overs
If you've seen any trailers for this game, you'll probably already know something of the music. My favourite track is already the glorious battle theme with the elegant but catchy flutes! Leona Lewis' 'My Hands' has yet to be heard however.

The English voice overs seem to be a very high standard so far. Some are already complaining about Vanille's character being annoying, but her New Zealand accent is quite cute and quirky and does start to grow on you. It depends on personal choice though!

Overall Final Fantasy XIII is shaping up really nicely and I can't wait to play more! I fear for my University projects, I really do! >.<

I hope you FF fans are enjoying this game as much as I am! ^.^

Monday, 8 March 2010


My promotional copy of Final Fantasy XIII has arrived a whole day before official release!!! I am so excited I cannot believe it!!! I am off to play it now, so don't expect to hear from me for a week!!! :D


Loves!!! <3 <3 <3

Monday, 1 March 2010

Weekend Blast

Just got back to Newport this morning from home, was up at 5am to get the train at 6:22, arrived at 9am, caught bus at 9:20 and somehow managed to be the second one in my lecture at 10am! It's been a hectic weekend!

I left last Saturday to surprise my sister as she was coming home from South Africa and boy was she surprised! It was great to catch up and hear all her amazing tales! She's had an amazing time, going on safari, Table Mountain, Cape Point, Robin island, visiting schools and even an orphanage! She had a great experience with lots of ups and downs, but overall I think it was good for her. :) Only trouble is, now she wants to go back!

Sadly it was just a flying visit for me at home and it felt like as soon as I had arrived, I was leaving again! So I didn't get to spend as much time with my family as I should have. :(

I'm looking forward to my Easter break so much as animation is becoming a handful! My latest animation is which Danielle is walking Fred the Hippo on a lead was left unfinished last week and I have to finish it tomorrow before I begin the next animation task. It's proving very difficult to churn out the exercises with no breaks, but our tutor insists that this is just like the industry, so we just have to put up with it. :/

I'll get there eventually, but for now, I am feeling emotionally and physically drained!!!

I do have some cool news though, last Wednesday I was contacted by the PR company for Square-Enix about the release of FFXIII and they wanted to publicise the event through my website! They said some lovely things about Final Fantasy World and I was happy to be a part of it! The event is at HMV in London on the 9th March in accordance with the release of Final Fantasy XIII and they even have some of the creators flying over from Japan especially! So it's all really cool!


You can check out all the details on Final Fantasy World if you're interested in going! :)
So that's been great and myself, Alex, Paul, Dale, Zara and Vikki are finalising the contract for renting a house next year which we are all looking forward to as on campus accommodation is getting everyone rather annoyed! Particularly with fire alarms going off at 5:30am! That's the worse one so far--and I had to get up at 7am to catch the train back home and I had a really late night due to parties going on until 3am!
It's been all over the place at the moment, hopefully I can focus on my work this week and spend the weekend relaxing and depleting my stress levels!

I'll be updating soon with more animations... :)
Gemma xxx

Narrative Strategies: Week 4

Last Tuesday with Leonie, we were tasked with finding newspaper images to accompany our folk tales. Unfortunately I had not been able to do my own from the pressures of animating the week before, but I had a newspaper to find images in, which I have been able to do now!

Our lecture was about poetry this time. Leonie asked us what is involved in poetry; such as rhythm and/or rhyme, simile, metaphor and creating descriptive imagery in your words. Some people welcomed this topic while others were unexcited. I like reading and writing lyrics which are poetic in nature, so am looking forward to it myself.

We were introduced to the work of Patrick Caulfield who created flat coloured paintings with thick black outlines around the shapes. He accompanies them with a line from a poem which describes a scene, but the image he creates only shows an aspect of that scene and does not spell in out for you. Here are some examples...

Left: Ah! Storm clouds rushed from the Channel Coasts!
Right: You'll be sick if you spend all your time indoors.

Left: Thus she would come, half-dead to my door.
Right: All these confessions... (my personal favourite)

It's an interesting effect, at first I thought it there were just abstract shapes ("Thus she would come..." was the first that I saw) but then I saw what the pictures represented and I like how they are partnered with poetry that seems nearly irrelevant but actually is connected if you think about it.

We were then told about the story of Gilgamesh (one of the earliest recorded stories) from Mesopotamia in preparation for a Brothers Quay film. I had seen some of their stop motion work before and liked it, but "This Unnameable Little Broom" (1985) was a step too creepy for me. Normally I like dark and creepy things, but this was bizarre blend of disturbing imagery and ideas coupled with strange designs and music. Check it out if you're interested in that kind of thing/stop motion, but it's not for everyone!

We finished with some more talk on poetry forms and great poets before talking about homework for next week. Primarily writing a short and condensed poem of our folk tale in 3-5 lines. I'm feeling quite inspired by a very picturesque train journey this morning, so will be off to do that now! :)

Friday, 19 February 2010

Latest Character Animations

Hello all, here are my animations for the first week which involved my human walk and run cycle and my animal walk and run cycle.

Danielle Walking

Danielle Running

Fred the Hippo Walking

Fred the Hippo Running

I received good feedback on them from friends. Sadly I didn't get to show my animations in the first critique (which lasted 4 hours because there are so many of us) but was able to the following day with everyone else who missed out.

Although there were a couple of problems such as my Hippo run cycle was two frames too slow and there were a few issues with Danielle's hands, Matthew said they were all really good and I working quite professionally on one of them by switching between animating on twos and ones! I was quite taken aback but very pleased! :3

So with my feedback in mind, I have spent this week animating the next task which is having one of my characters jumping from one area to another. I decided to use my hippo character, Fred,so that I could have some fun with stretching and squashing. :)

Fred the Hippo Fails at Jumping

And that's all for now! Next week we are animating our human characters taking our animals for a walk before being unexpectedly pulled by the lead! We have taken some pretty funny video reference for this so I'm looking forward to having fun with that! :)

Bye for now! :3
Gemma xxx

PONYO Review

After a long delay between October and February, Ponyo has finally been released in the UK! And I highly recommend that any fans of animated films, Studio Ghibli or just films in general should definitely go see it.

When I originally heard about this film, I read that it was going to be a Miyazaki film aimed at young children, and while this is still true, it is still highly entertaining for any age. And I think this is what separates his films from that of Disney. While Princess and the Frog was a great piece, at times it may lose the attention of older audiences by including slapstick and immature characters and sidekicks to supposedly comedic effect.

Miyazaki however, does not rely on cheap comedy to appeal to youngsters. Instead, he delivers a totally heartwarming film with believable characters and the usual stunning visuals and music that is appropriate for the kiddies and certainly a joy to watch myself.


Sadly I missed the first few minutes (due to traffic in Cardiff) but I shall try to summarise the beginning. Ponyo is the story of a young boy, Sosuke, who stumbles across a tiny mermaid near his seaside home. He rescues her from her glass bottle prison and keeps 'Ponyo' in a green bucket. Slowly the girl's magic powers allow her to communicate with Sosuke and they form a friendship.

When Ponyo is captured back by her father (dubbed by the amazing Liam Neeson) she expresses the desire to become human and uses her magic to sprout legs and arms. She flees her father's underwater home now as a little girl on a wave of huge fish formed by her sisters to find Sosuke again.

The story takes a turn when their town is flooded by a huge storm and Sosuke and Ponyo leave to search for Sosuke's mother and keep Ponyo from turning into sea foam along the way! I love this little boat by the way!

The animation in Ponyo is typical Studio Ghibli class, consistently high quality the whole way through. But what particularly stands out in this film in the rendering of the water, which is practically a whole character by itself. That is how important water is here. It's the barrier between the water folk and humans, it is their livelihood and it physically separates the characters half way through the film. There is also a lot of it.

The water is animated in such a fluid and nearly tangible way. And everything in the shots move! Whether it's a foreground or background element. Sometimes even backdrops are animated. In an early short Sosuke in on a hill by his home and the pencil background has animated grass in the same pencil medium, which looks a lot more impressive than animating basic cell grass on top of the background.

There's so much going on in each shot, whether it's all of Ponyo's sisters, water effects, bubbles, swimming fish or tiny details in the background, so much has been painstakingly drawn to create hundreds of perfectly cinematic shots. Some of the shot composition causes you to wonder how it was even accomplished it can be so complicated. It's a very impressive sight that will probably leave your mouth wide open in awe if you are an animator like me!

Generally I find it difficult to fault Ghibli films anyway, but after Tales of Earthsea it is a relief to see one as good as Howl's Moving Castle. The dub was also very good standard. I would like to try the Japanese audio when the DVD comes out, but Liam Neeson was so good as Ponyo's father Fujimoto it will be difficult to switch the audio over!

All in all, a truly fantastic film that is worth watching at the cinema if you've never seen a Ghibli film on the big screen before! A deserving 9/10!

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Narrative Strategies: Week 3

This week was an interesting one, we started by watching a 70 minute French animation called Kirikou (1998) that is set in Africa. It had quite a unique style and an enjoyable story, though it was quite strange at times! It followed the story of a new born baby called Kirikou who is able to talk and walk from the day he was born and is very inquisitive in nature.


It was a really lovely film and it's great to see such quality from less mainstream movies. The style was really fresh and the backgrounds were full of texture and colour. It was very peculiar at times and also rather funny! It's nice that films like this may start to get more recognition, such as Persepolis (2007) another French film which was in every DVD shop when it came out.

After the film, we had a quick discussion about the film. Leonie explained that the future of UK animation would be more successful if it were to collaborate with European partners and do something unique, rather than try to be mainstream American animation. Then we went through our new handbooks for the session which explained what we would be doing and where.

It appears that this module will also include a 30 sec to 2 minute Narrative, Documentary or Abstract style animation for us to complete by the end of it. I hope that it does not collide with Matthew's character animation work!

When we had to move out of our lecture theatre, we met up again in E4 to discuss our folk tales that we had collected. Some of us read our folk tales out and then received feedback on the meaning behind the story, i.e. the moral and purpose.

I wanted to find a Welsh story, as I had heard some good ones in the past, and found one I had not heard of before, it was quite entertaining! I originally found it here:

The Dragon of Denbigh

A Dragon once terrorized the town of Denbigh, Clwyd. It had taken over the ruined castle and was in the habit of darting out to attack and devour cattle and people.

The inhabitants of the town recruited the help of a local man called Sion Bodiau (Sir John of the Thumbs). This strange fellow had two thumbs on each hand, and so in the estimation of ordinary five
fingered folk he surely possessed the power to rid them of the dragon. Sir John was urged to approach the castle and tempt the dragon out.

He had little choice as he rode out towards it in full armour, lance at the ready. Behind him was a population that would have murdered him had he refused. Ahead was a fire-breathing dragon. Looking back at the faces of the women from the town he decided to take his chances with the dragon. This obliged by charging out of the castle and loomed down on Sion Bodiau.

But then the dragon halted short and stared down at the trembling hands, puzzling over the number of digits on display. The grateful knight saw his opportunity and plunged his lance into the dragon's
heart. He then drew his sword and chopped of the dragon's head. Sion was a hero, the people running through the town shouting `Dim Bych, Dim Bych` in celebration.

And to this day even though the town is called Denbigh in English, that name is a corruption of the Welsh Dinbych, pronounced `Dim bych locally (`no more dragon`).


Again, I didn't get an opportunity to tell my story, but the others had very interesting folk tales. We were then given our next assignment. We are to take our folk tale and skim through a newspaper, picking out relevant pictures for our story. Leonie demonstrated this with Little Red Riding Hood, by finding pictures of little school girls in red jumpers, red berries, and the skeleton of a crocodile to represent the wolf, all in the same paper.

The purpose is to be a little far-fetched and not to find pictures that perfectly describe your story (from say, the Internet) so that we can abstract our ideas a little. I shall be looking forward to next week, now all I need is a newspaper! :)

Narrative Strategies: Week 2

On Tuesday 9th, our second lecture with Leonie covered creation myths. First some of us presented the myths that we had researched throughout the week. There were myths from Africa, North America (Iroquois), Asia and more! I had collected some myths that I enjoyed.

This myth from Japan (accessed here: was one that I had looked at but was presented by another student during the lecture.

Japanese Creation Myth

Long ago all the elements were mixed together with one germ of life. This germ began to mix things around and around until the heavier part sank and the lighter part rose. A muddy sea that covered the entire earth was created. From this ocean grew a green shoot. It grew and grew until it reached the clouds and there it was transformed into a god. Soon this god grew lonely and it began to create other gods. The last two gods it made, Izanagi anf Izanami, were the most remarkable.

One day as they were walking along they looked down on the ocean and wondered what was beneath it. Izanagi thrust his staff into the waters and as he pulled it back up some clumps of mud fell back into the sea. They began to harden and grow until they became the islands of Japan.
The two descended to these islands and began to explore, each going in different directions. They created all kinds of plants. When they met again they decided to marry and have children to inhabit the land.

The first child Izanami bore was a girl of radiant beauty. The gods decided she was too beautiful to live in Japan, so they put her up in the sky and she became the sun. Their second daughter, Tsuki-yami, became the moon and their third and unruly son, Sosano-wo, was sentenced to the sea, where he creates storms.

Later, their first child, Amaterasu, bore a son who became the emperor of Japan and all the emperors since then have claimed descent from him.

 From my notes, here is some information on creation myths...

Creation Myths were created by early human cultures to explain unknown phenomenons of the Universe. Despite great distances between civilisations at the time, most myths share similarities:
  • They begin with Birth and Reproduction.
  • A supreme being is present in nearly all myths.
  • Some cultures believe that life began above or below the Earth, in others, humans and animals once lived in harmony but were separated by the sin of humans.
  • Innocence may be taken by a God.
  • Symbolism is often present through eggs or water (birth)
After this, we watched The Story of Little John Bailey by Paul Driessen (1970) which demonstrated a typical fairytale story structure as well as abstract imagery that was understood as real things through a Narrator. I liked the blunt nature of the voice over, even though it said much more than was really needed, it was quite comedic in a way.

We also saw 3 Misses by the same animator (1998) which you can watch here: ( it was a wonderful little parody of a modern tale, a Western story and a Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs fairytale. It's full of quirky humour and funny (if a bit grim) violence. This also showed a fairytale structure (three sections being a big factor, except in this case the story is split up and shown in little parts) and how it can be used in a new new a different way.

Our next task is to find a folk tale that we enjoy to use in activities for future sessions, so we have to make sure it's a good one! :)

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Character Development

After a long week of designing, I have come up with my human character and animal character to begin animating this week! Here are my final model sheets for both, followed by my rough sketchbook designs to see the process and development! :)


Danielle is a 26-year-old mother to 3-year-old Justin and is married to a musician named Mark. She is quirky, fun-loving, off the wall and considerate of others, but she is also quite clumsy and can be prone to jealousy and laziness! Her passion is writing, whether it is novels or scripts and she enjoys listening to Kate Bush.

This is my Hippo character. As of yet, his or her's gender is ambiguous (partly because I haven't decided yet!) but he/she is rather effeminate. I'm interested in playing with contrasts between the Hippo and Danielle, perhaps making him/her extremely energetic and trying to be a graceful dancer which proves difficult because of their sheer weight! I rather like the 3/4 pose here.


Here are my first sketchbook drawings of Danielle and my Hippo, enjoy! =]


So far, I am quite happy with my design, but I'm going back to the drawing board a bit with Danielle. After speaking with Matthew,  he found my woman to have almost too perfect proportions, which will either make animating very difficult or very boring. The problem is also coming up with an original style, which has already become necessary! So I'm trying to make her have more of a droopy 'sack-like' body like I tend to do in my life drawings to see if that's more interesting to animate. I may also try new mediums--we shall see!

The next week I will be spending doing a walk and run cycle for Danielle and a walk and run cycle of my Hippo! Wish me luck! =]

Gemma xxx