10 December 2013

Bradford Animation Festival 2013

I had the joy of been at the 20th Bradford Animation Festival, this was my first time going and what a year I picked to go. As there was a lot happening over the week I will focus this post on my personal favourite events from the festival.
On the opening night of the festival I got to see a screening of Nightmare Before Christmas, the film was been screened To celebrate that like the festival it's the films 20th anniversary. Now of-course I have seen the film A LOT but I have never seen it on the big screen, seeing it like this was brilliant and I was amazed to see new props and details in the sets on almost every shot. Iv you ever get the chance to see it on the big screen do it! 
Independent Animator Lee Hardcastle gave a very interesting talk on how he to become a success from posting his animations on YouTube. I first noticed see Lees work when he posted the evil dead in 60 seconds, Pingu's The Thing and it's grate to see that he is doing so well. I Found it fascinating that he has managed to turn his crating animations for YouTube hobby into his full time job and it.s something I'm very interested in looking into my self. Take a look at some of Lee's work here.

My highlight of the festival was getting to see the brilliant Ian Mackinnon and Peter Saunders receive their lifetime achievement award. For you guys who may not know Ian and Peter are the owners of Mackinnon & Saunders the UK's leading stop motion Puppet makers and they could not be nicer guys.

photos from BAF Flicker
You will mostly know them from their work with Tim Burton on The Corpse Bride, Frankenweenie and with Wes Anderson on Fantastic Mr Fox. They have mostly been busy working for over 20 years on countless children's TV shows including: Bod the Builder, Bill & Ben, Postman Pat, Engie Benjy, Fifi and the Flowertots, Raa Raa the Noisy Lion and most recently Toby's Travelling Circus.
They are a true inspiration to me and it was brilliant to see them getting honoured for their very hard work.  If you have not do take look over there site here!! mackinnon and saunders

On the last day went to see the brilliant Oscar winning independent Australian stop motion animator writer and director Adam Elliot in conversion with the grate Barry Purves. I first saw Adams work when I got to see Mary & Max and Harvey Crumpet and I became fan of this unique style of film making right away.

photos from BAF Flicker
Apart from seeing his films I did not know all that much about Adam so it was grate to final get to find out more about the man behind it all. For you guys who may not have seen Adams work cheek out the Mary & Max trailer here

Before the talk started Barry and Adam were talking in the caff where I was also sat, this was where Barry spotted me came over and introduced me to Adam. I got to have a good chat with Adam and I also got to show him The Piper puppet, biggest complement he gave me was when he asked if Mackinnon and Saunders Made The Piper for me!!
Big thanks to Barry Purves for taking the photo.
The Pipers Having a good week at BAF.
My self @BeyondCraft and @catch_ch and The Piper working hard on the @skwigly animation quiz @OsgoodBAF we came 10th and I got an awesome CITV goody-bag (photo from BAF Flicker)

For my first time going to the Bradford animation festival it was a brilliant 4 days and I am very excited for BAF2014 so roll on next year and Ill see you then!

11 October 2013


Hi guys i would like to show you this grate campaign for a new animated short, Kernowland a Stop Motion Adventure, Based on the popular children's books by Jack Trelawnys and directed by my very good Friend Zeke Ares. 
I first meat Zeke in my first year at university and over his last to years we got to work on a number projects together including been the co-director on his final film Surge witch you can see below.

SURGE from zeke ares on Vimeo.
As you can see form Surge Zeke has a grate mind for details, large scale story's and directing. Zeke has spent the last year building up a team on brilliantly talented people in-order for him to bring his full vision of Kernowland to the stop motion screen.
But don't just take my word for it come and check out the crowed finding funding page 

For new and up to date news come and like the Facebook page 
Subscribe to the YouTube Channel so you can see the I believe in Kernowland videos 

I know I speak for Zeke and myself in saying we believe there is great potential in this project so
 please please donate if you can and please do feel free to pass the links around!
Let's do this!
I believe in Kernowland!!

10 October 2013

Degree show and Graduation

Now that all the hard work on The Piper was over it was time to get ready for the university Show and Tell degree show. This where all the university's Art and design departments are open to the public, so they can come and take a look around all the final year students work on display
While i was setting up my section of the degree show I came out of the animation department and I was shocked and over the moon to see that The Piper had been used on a banner to promote the animation department. It was a very amazing thing to see my characters on a 5 foot size banner and I felt very lucky that my work had been chosen.
The degree show lasted a week and was brilliant to see people's reaction to everyone’s films and hard work.

For all you who could not make it to the degree show here is a short video by Rich Lee and Alan Bennett with a nice interview with myself talking all things Piper
So now the degree show was over the next step was the big one, Graduation! This was a crazy broiling hot day and grate way to say good bye to university life but hopefully not the last time see you your mates.
Very embarrassing photo
A completely unexpected thing happened as I stood in the wings of the stage getting ready to walk on and shake the deans hand, the speaker stopped reading the names From the Stop Motion Animation and puppet making class and said and the winner of Outstanding Creative Achievement In Design: Graphics and Animation is awarded to Daniel James! Well I was of course dumfounded and did not believe it. I walked out on stage a bit like a zombie, shook the Deans hand and only when I had sat down it hit me what jus happened.
My First Class Honers degree

winning this award was truly a grate honer out of the whole university my work was selected for this award and for that I am very grateful. I would like say now a massive thank you to every on who has helped me on this project, to my tutors for nominating me and to the heads of the Arts and design department who selected me to win.
Here is The Piper and his award!

This was the icing on the cake, I can now proudly say I could not of received any higher of an achievement for my time at university. It's now time for the scary part, where I levee the comfort of education and step out into the big wide animation world.

Wish me luck :D

5 September 2013

Animated Eden

I’d like to tell you lovely lot that this Sunday the 8th of September is Animated Eden, Cumbria's First International Short Animation Film Festival. This is a one day pilot animation festival to help raise money for next year’s much bigger festival and screenings; it will be awesome if we could get as many of you, the Animation gang to come along. 
I'm also very happy to say that my film The Piper will be getting screened as part of the festival. So to all you guys who have seen my making of posts and not seen the final film this will be a perfect chance for you to see The Piper on the big screen. 
After the screening I will be taking part in a Q&A on stage where I will be talking about the making of process for the film and taking questions from the audience. You will also have the chance to meet The Piper cast as I will have the puppets on stage with me and they will be on display throughout the day. 
If you are a stop motion animator or fan you will be delighted to hear that the incredibly talented Mr Barry Purves will be given what is bound to be a very inspiring talk all about is experience working in animation and why he still animates with puppets. Barry will also be screening a selection of his own short films. I first met Barry in 2010, in them three years I have gotten to know him very well and now regard him as a good friend. I highly recommend that you come to this talk; you will leave with a big creative buzz. 
I should also mention that the festival shop / stand will be selling The Piper crew T-shirts size medium only for £8 and badges for 50p. So if you liked The Piper and would like to support my work please come and buy one. 
So come on down or up, the festival is free, so what more could you want!! However they do ask for a donation to help run this first and future events. 
For information check out 
it will be grate to meet you all so if you see me walking around come and say hello, I look forward to seeing you there!

1 September 2013

Making of The Piper part 3

With the puppets and set completed it was time to get animating on the film. Due to story points I had to shoot a dream sequence and one of the last shots for the film first, it had to be done this way as I needed the park set to be fully clean. Once all the shots were completed I had to take a week out of animating and messy the park up, add a fence and trees. In planning my animation time sheet I had to shoot the story in chunks all facing the same camera angels. This was important to get right as the sun is setting toughout film and I was painting the background by hand as I went on.

The first two weeks of animating were with all that kids paying on the equipment in the park. These were all shot of two's at 25 fps as i wanted the kids animation to have a more classic children's tv show vibe. However the Piper himself was animated on ones this was to give him more fluid movements and allow him to play his pipe in sync, it also helps to sell the fact that The Piper is not from this world and gives him a very different feel. Here is a slide show that shows the animation process and the order I shot the film in.  
Editing on The Piper was the first time i really used After effects to its full advantage, as i haven't had much experience with After Effects i asked my may friend Frank Mansfield for some advice. There were 6 main shots where I used After Effects for: rig removal, light tracking, colour correction and green screen removal.

 I edited the film as I went along, animating in the day and adding in the new shots on the night. The dead line on completing this Film was the tightest it has been for me. on the day before hand in I finished animating the final shot with the Piper and all 7 kids at 5pm and was up editing in the final shots, making the final touches, fully syncing up the music and adding in the sounds fx till 7am of the day of Hand in. I uploaded the film on to Vimeo, did the last part of the right up and handed in all my work. 

I had The Piper online viewable to the public for 2 days after it was completed, and in that time that feedback has been amazing! I sent the link to a large number of animation friends and here are some of their brilliant comments.

I'd like to take this opportunity to say a massive thank you to everyone who has watched The Piper and commented on it as means a lot! To the ones who have no seen The Piper yet it will be back online once the festival runs are over.

28 August 2013

My first commission

As you may have seen there is a brilliant new stop motion ad now showing for the first John Lewis Insurance, if you have not seen it cheek it out here!
I was lucky enough to be contacted by by a member of 360i asking to be a part of the new campaign called ‘What Matters Most’. This has been launched alongside the new ad were viewers can create a 6 second vine showing what matters most to them. You then post your vine with Twitter using the #tag #whatmattersmost and you have the chance of winning £1000 in John Lewis vouchers and more!
My job was to create my own 6 second Vine that they could use as a part of their example pages for people interested in creating their own vines could see. This was my second time animating with the Vine app and I found it an interesting experience.
As an animator I found being limited to not watching your animation till you have fully finished your 6 second clip gave me a whole new respect for the legendary animators who did these amazing shots without the tool of Instant playback. I believe using this app will be a great way to teach new starting animators a great sense of timing. I plan on trying a list of basic animation tasks on the vine myself to see how it goes.

Here is my finished vine and if you fancy creating your own vine for John Lewis check out the site here. http://whatmatters.johnlewis-insurance.com/competition/ 

27 July 2013

The Making of The Piper Part 2

Hi guys welcome back to the making of my final graduation film The Piper. In my last post I gave you a insight into the per production work and in this post I will cover the making of the Puppets, set, props, and animation.

 Making The Piper Puppet:
 This slideshow shows how I made the Piper puppet form my first designs to the final character on  set. The armature is from animationtoolkit.co.uk and was cover in foam to pad out the body shape. The sculpted clay head was set into a silicone mould and casted up using a fast setting resin. The suite was hand stitched by my self working from a pattern that was kindly given to me. The hands are made form silicone and hair is made out of a fur fabric that was coloured in using a number of different sharpies.

 Making The Kids puppets:
 This slideshow shows how the all 7 kid puppets were made. I had 3 Ball and socket armatures and 4 wire armature that were from animationtoolkit.co.uk. The armatures were covered in foam to give etch kids a different body shape. To save time all the kids had the same head, this was sculpted in clay, set into a silicone mould and casted up 8 times using a fast setting resin. All the kids costumes were made the amazing first year student Cat Hayes, check out her work hear!. The hands are made form silicone. The hair was made by my self and to second year students RobMillard and Giselle Schiniou (click names to see there work) layering up meany hair extensions over a foam core. Once fully dry I would cut it into the desired shape.

 Making The Park Set:
 This slideshow shows the construction of the park set. I started off by covering the Animation table with a big black sheet that I stuck down with PVA glue. Once dry I glued down sawdust in to the shape of the pathway rolling over it till flat. I did the same technique for the chip wood in the main play ground but instead of saw dust I used torn up chunks of cardboard. To make the sky / backdrop i got a 1 meter by 2 meter size strip of blue fabric. I painted on the clouds with poster paint as it seeps into the fabric, I would paint this sky more orange tough out the film to so show that the sun is setting. The chip wood and sawdust were painted with a mix or poster a acrylic paints.

I made all of the play ground equipment my self with scraps pieces of wood, wire and foam board, a part from the seesaw witch I got my good friend Zeke Ares to make, check out his work here! I made the play ground clean first then once all the shots were completed I messed up the play ground. To messy up and to make play ground feel more like a cage for the kids I added a fence all around the park, i also added trees all along the back and sides of the park. this helped me get some every interesting depth and lighting on set. The tree were made out of poster tubes sprayed in glue, rolled in saw dust, painted up and glued to the set.

Thanks for reading guys and as always your comments, questions and feedback are very welcome! Coming soon the making of The Piper part 3.

21 July 2013

The Making of The Piper 1

Well I know it's been a long time sins I last blog any news. As you may have guessed I have been incredibly busy the last 7 mouths. However now university is now all over I plan on getting you all up to date with a sires of new posts.  A good place to start off with is a little film called The Piper.

The Making of The Piper 1

If you follow my work you will know i have been working on this film for the past year. Just before christmas i created a teaser trailer in order for me to work on this idea for the entreaty of my final university year. hopefully you have seen the making of that I posted back in February if not feel free to check it out in my older posts.  
Now that I have finished the film I can now show you all how I made it.  As you can imagine there was a lot of work that went into the film so I have decided to go over the highlights in part 1 and show you a set of making of slide shows in part 2. 
Firstly id like to mention the Armatures and Materials for all of the puppets in The Piper have been sponsored by Animation Toolkit. I have been very fortunate to have been in contact with owner of Animation Toolkit Wes Wood for a number of years, he is an awesome chap and incredibly generous. I was given enough joints, balls, rods and plates from his amazing Ray Harryhausen approved Armacreature sets to make 4 puppets, 1 Piper and 3 of the kids. with the other 3 kids been made out of the wire armature kits. 

I would highly recommend this kit to all you stop motion guys, there is so much potential to what you can create with the kit, may it be human character or your classic creature like the legend Mr Ray Harryhausen would make. To see all the brilliant stock check out AnimationToolkit here! 
 With out the generous help of Animation Toolkit I could not have made The Piper full stop! I'd like to take this time to say a massive thank you to Wes Wood for making this possible and I hope you are as happy with the final film as i am! 

Storyboarding / animatic:
Once I got the script and designs finalised it was time to storyboard the film, I stared off by thumb nailing out the whole story.
With my drawing skills not been the best I decided to get a story board artist Chloe Howley in. I gave Chloe a copy of the script, designs and my thumb nails to and she got back to me with some amazing story boards. 
Sadly Chloe could not board the whole film so I got my Step sister Nadia McLoughlin to takeover.
Once all the boards were competed I started editing them together into the animatic. Creating this animatic was a brilliant way for me to show my production team and mentor what exactly I wanted to do in this film. This also managed to help convince the tutors that I needed to book out and have the set attached to the animation table for 2 mouths solid.
Here is a snippet from the animatic.
I was very fortunate to get composer Brett McCoy to create original music for film. I gave Bret almost free rain when creating the music for the Pipers playing. however i had the idea to have the boys and girls come out to play theme plying when ever we see a new park set. Brett Worked to the timing and music keys I set up in the animatic with a temp track with music from films and tv.
Bret did an amazing job of the music and id like to say a massive thank you! The Piper would be nothing with out his music.

Cheek out Brett's other work here!

Thanks for reading guys and as always your comments and feedback are very welcome! Coming soon the making of The Piper part 2.