(More) Networking in Bristol and Aardmans ‘Lip Sync special’

Once again it’s been a busy week for me, again mostly meet ups and networking mixed in with other events and building work (as well as suffering through a cold). There was a meet up on Tuesday for media professionals in the area, a really great evening where I met a lot of interesting people and learned about a lot of useful sites, plug ins and general advice (Animation Base for job hunting is one that I think is worth passing on), but the event I’m going to focus on here was a screening at the Watershed. Aardman held a 25th anniversary celebration screening of their series Lip Sync, a series of shorts created for Channel 4 in 1989 that led into the massively successful Creature Comforts series. There’s an article on Skwigly that goes over the premise for this event as well as including an interview with Nick Park and Peter Lord about Lip Synch (which covers alot of the same stuff as they talked about on the evening).

The event bought together a lot of the crew and directors from the series, most notably including Peter Lord, Richard Starzak, Barry Purves, David Sproxton, Nick Park and Sara Mullock. Each of them had directed one of the shorts and consequently took it in turns to come up to the stage, spend some time talking about the piece (how it came about, the ideas behind it, what they’d change looking back on it, etc) before showing that short and moving to the next.

Rather than attempt any kind of transcript I’ll just type up some of the more interesting notes from the evening along with my own thoughts on them. The title of each links to the respective video.


David Sproxton: Going Equipped

After talking about how they had this idea for animating to live recordings Dave talked about the problems with literally just live recording people on the street, and how in the end they got far better results by getting a journalist to interview people. They also made a point as animators not to meet with the people they were interviewing as that’d influence their impression of them.


Richard Starzak: Ident

My main take away from this was not to cram too many ideas into one piece. Watching this I could see exactly what he meant; there’s a lot of good ideas, the wearing of masks as personas, words having physical impact, the surreal incorporation of real-life humans into the piece etc, but I’m not sure each has the space to breath that it deserves. Still an effective and entertaining piece though.


Barry Purves: Next

Besides reiterating the previous point of pairing down the number of ideas you use in a film I felt the most significant part of this was when Barry talked about how the budget constraints shaped this piece. He originally wanted a small army of puppets, but the budget allowed just one detailed one, influencing both this films direction and his overall style. He concluded that he felt every frame in an animation should contribute to the whole; waste nothing.


Nick Park: Creature Comforts

A lot of what Nick said here is also included in this interview with Skwigly, but besides that the main things for me were that they decided to actively look for people who fit similar situations to the animals at the zoo (similarly caged or away from their birth place) and that after this production they developed a system of replacing facial expressions on figurines to save time whilst animating.


Peter Lord: War Story

This was originally intended to be a companion to the first film, a more ‘serious’ animation, yet moved more toward comedy in order to more easily gauge an audiences reaction.


The following is a series of notes I made during the Q&A. These are typed up as they are written in my notebook, so most will be simple individual sentences. I’ll try to provide small amounts of additional context.

– Advice on how to get films out there
Budgets have dropped massively over time since they started, although recently Morph was relaunched via Kickstarter.
Started as hobbyists, didn’t make a living for a long time.
These shorts were created around other commercial work (adverts)

– Technology has removed a lot of the stress of animation making, although it does make finer prints and other imperfections more obvious.
Huge cameras used to make close ups difficult
Risk of over/under exposing film, losing completed rushes (either to light exposure or physically losing them in the mail whilst getting developed), etc.
Couldn’t check what you had until developed

– Advice for students

Peter L – More paid work for CGI at the moment. Model animation a more fulfilling career? – More of an appetite for traditional work now than a few years back.

Barry P – Everything is about performance; story is key

David S – Practice and keep going

Sara – Life drawing. Lots of students have a very poor grasp of basic anatomy

Nick P – Keep films short (A Grand Day Out was supposed to be his graduation film, they never filmed a lot of scenes even after getting studio help to finish it – one scene was to be a McDonalds on the moon).

Rich S – Telling a story is key. Lovely techniques are great, but learn storytelling. Find/become a good editor. Also find a good producer.

David S – Audio recording – cars make good makeshift studios. Studio conditions makes it easier to deal with ambient sound.


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Moving away from Aardman related things, this coming week I’m going to be very busy to the point of not having any time for animation (or even going to more meetups/networking events as I have been). The large parts of building work in the house I’m staying in are done and it’s a week from when my cousin and his family are wanting to move in, and currently it’s still a bit of a building site. I’m heading back to my parents for Christmas and leaving on Friday, meaning the next four days are set to be spent deep cleaning and doing things like moving furniture around. It’s likely that my update next week will either be very short or I’ll just leave things for a bit.

But rather than leave things on that note, seeing as we’re reaching mid-December now, here’s a video of an absolutely amazing Christmas card.




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