Friday, December 19, 2008

An animated Christmas card

Have a great Christmas and a happy, healthy new year!

These short animations were made by year 10 ICT students at the Baxter College in Kidderminster. Their brief to create a short animated Christmas greeting that can be used on Youtube, sent via email or posted on a blog entry. The idea of the animation day was to introduce all 40 students to the software, principles and possibilities of animation within GCSE ICT. Next term they're planning a lot more animation as part of the course work.


Monday, December 8, 2008

Adapting and animating

Keeping ideas short and simple is a good starting point for any animation project, if the class have a familiar theme, story or idea it will keep everyone involved focused, which will influence the final outcomes in a positive way. The random, "lets make it up as we go", approach, will be good fun but the final product/outcome won't be as good.

So adapting a story the class/group are familiar with is a very good idea.

I did a project with year fours last year adapting and animating the Twits!

The class had to decide on which scenes should be included in their animated adaptation, as not all the scenes would be possible or easy to film.

The clip below is a good example of a simple scene from the Twits, Mrs Twit adding worms to Mr Twit's Spaghetti. A simple fun visual scene. This clip has no sound, so make sure you set aside time for the sound, voices etc.

I like the look of this competition being organised by Film Street.

Film Street, the award winning filmmaking website for children, has just launched an animation competition for children and schools, Animate IT ’09: To cut a long story short.

In partnership with Kudlian Software, the Picture Production Company and the National Year of Reading we are inviting children under 12, primary schools and after school groups to make an animated trailer to promote their favourite book; our patron is CBBC’s Ed Petrie.

You have until April to enter your work and there are prizes!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Advanced animation ideas

Here are the outcomes from the advanced animation course for teachers held at the Institute of Education on 5th December.

The day long course was intended for teachers who have been using animation in the classroom and wanted to discover new ideas and practice they can use with their students.

So the day included the following:

1-Chroma Keying with I can animate and a green screen.

2-The use of different shots, long shots, mid shots and close ups.

3-Reaction to action. This really brings characters to life!

4-Pausing the action and creating beats within the animation, links to the above point.

5-Using multiple sound effects and music to give added depth to the animations, animation is 60% sound.

6- And finally creating much simpler story ideas, reducing the ideas down to a raw essence, keeping it painfully simple. Simple doesn't mean boring and unimaginative.

So there was quite a lot to do in one day! The participants worked in small groups of four and each group came up with a fun simple idea. Only one group could do the chroma keying as I only have one green screen. The green screen cloth was sourced from Kudlian Soft.

In the past I have worked with students using a large piece of green paper from the art department which provided a perfect key. (Traditionally green and blue screens are used in the film industry because there are no blue or green hues/colours in our skin tones.)

Remember when making your models don't include any green modeling clay if you're using a green screen.

The key to a successful chroma key is light, an even spread of light on your green/blue screen.

The chroma key in the animation below isn't great because of the poor light, also I think using a video camera will generate better results, both films were shot with webcams.

I like the sound effects in the Christmas surprise and the reaction to action by both the Christmas tree and the bird. The sound effects were sourced from

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Animation project with gang members- Part 1

This project is still in the planning stages and is going to be one of the most challenging I've ever done, but also exciting and potentially very rewarding.

A creative form of crime related reconciliation.

Working with a CLC in Bristol, local community police, three secondary schools and hopefully some of the amazing talent in the animation industry in Bristol , we are going to give young gang members the opportunity to confront the effects of their gang related crime; muggings, beatings, knife attacks. theft and general intimidation.

The first stage will be introducing the young people (aged 13-16) to the principles of animation through a hands on workshop. 

Then they will devise, with our help a series questions that we will put to victims of gang related crime. This will happen in a different location without the young people.

The interviews, thoughts and feelings of the victims will be recorded with a voice recorder, then edited down to 60-90 seconds.

These interviews will from the skeleton to the animation shorts that the young people will then create. Similar to Creature Comforts, where interviews form the structure and inspiration to the models, set and finished film.

The young people will then study the interview edits and create models, sets and an animated short in small groups of three based on the interviews.

This project will have many different outcomes;

1- The animation shorts, which we will aim to use in other schools, screen at festivals host on Youtube.


2- ?  

It's hard at this point to say what the other outcomes will be, I know what I and every one else involved would like them to be.

So over the next 5/6 months I'll blog the process, progress and outcomes.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Sharp-Shotz animation competition

A great opportunity for any budding young animators, Sharp-Shotz is in it's second year and is organised by Aardman Animations and UWE. 

The themes for the competition are drugs, knives and guns! With the aim of delivering awareness messages. 

For years I've been telling students not to include knives, guns, chain saws, rocket launchers and other items of death and destruction in their animation films, as the finished outcomes are always a bloody mess and resorting to violence isn't very creative and imaginative. Now I have until December 22nd 2008 to give students a legitimate opportunity to include weapons in their films, they will love it! 

Animation, specially stop motion animation with plasticine is the perfect medium for allowing young students to explore these ugly issues. No one gets hurt and plasticine models bleed well! Animation and violence go hand in hand, and kids love it!

To find out more about Sharp-Shotz CLICK HERE

Below is a film made in the summer by students from the Bewdley school. The idea behind the film was about a guy with a knife reacting to quickly and without thinking assumes the worst.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Flickr for art lessons

This link I found by accident and I love it! The art work of Banksy lives and breaths on the streets of the UK, I think a book has been published but this link is a pool of photo's taken of Banksy's art work. So now you can appreciate the talent in the comfort of your home or art class!

It's a great use of Flickr, creating a focused pool of photos on an artist/theme. Perfect for the art teacher who wants to access a large collection of resources on a particular artist for use in class.

Friday, September 26, 2008

An animated teaching resource from South Africa

This short animation was made during a two hour animation session for teachers in Cape Town, South Africa. The five music teachers involved had never animated before and had very limited resources, the brief I gave all eighty teachers was to create a short animation they could use with their class as a teaching resource. 

This animation makes great use of sound and has a very simple theme, easily achieved in the short amount of time we had, simply explaining an area of music theory.

This speed animation approach I use for conferences and mixed training days produces some great results from participants who focus on subject/topic areas that are familiar to them. These teachers produced a resource that they knew would have relevance to an area of their curriculum and subject. Maybe in the past they had wondered how they could teach this nugget of theory in a fun engaging way. That quickly got the important points across to their students.

My First Flip Video- From Cape Town

This isn't my first flip movie, but the results of my first video training session using the very popular and affordable Flip Video Camera, involving eighty teachers in Cape Town, South Africa. Another short session, introducing video editing with iMovie, then a brief explanation of using the Flip Video ( This is the easiest camera I've ever used) participants in pairs filmed for about 15 mins then edited their footage in iMovie adding titles, music etc. finally exporting the finished results via Bluetooth on to mobile phones. 

Mobile phones in South Africa are the main device everyone has a phone and it's a crucial form of communication more so than the internet.

The light in Cape Town is fantastic and it's the reason why the images from the Flip Camera look so good. It's also why the film and video production companies of South Africa are based here.

The results from this camera are great for a product that cost's about £100.00
1- Easy to use
2- Records up to 60 mins of video
3- Perfect for schools as it's so small and user friendly and doesn't require any leads! (They always vanish just when you want to download your footage)
4- Works with Mac's and PC's.
5- Affordable

I highly recommend these cameras for education, the only downside is they don't work with Stop Motion Animation software. If they did then the Flip would be five star!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Animation in Cape Town

Day two of a six day tour of South Africa, training teachers to use
Apple technology in the classroom. Cape Town is the creative hub of
South Africa home to video and film production for the advertising and
TV world. Beautiful beaches and sceanery, fantastic light and most of
all low production costs.

During the two days 80 teachers have learnt to edit and shoot video,
work with digital still images, create podcasts and short animation
films designed for use in their class. 20 of the teachers involved had
never used a laptop before and had no experience of a track pad or
drag and drop. But by the second day these less experienced teachers
were creating content that was just as good if not better than the
teachers who had years of experience with IT. They where empowered
with simple and easy to use tools, that allowed them to learn and
develop new skills quickly for use in their classrooms.

These skills will be valued and understand in this creative capital of
South Africa. If education supports the main industry and the industry
supports education then Cape Town can develop this world class
industry with pride and confidence.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Getting the work seen on TV.

There's a fantastic opportunity for young creatives aged 13- 19 . BBC Blast  want films, animations etc work for possible screening on BBC 2 and at the BFI in London in December. Click here for the link. There's also information about funding for students to develop their creative skills working with the BBC. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Why use Youtube?

An important area of digital creativity is to ensure any work created is shared with the community. Now this can be a global community via websites and Youtube or a more local community with DVD's/ CD's. But it is a crucial part of the process for students finding and thinking about an audience. When a filmmaker or musician steps back from their work and lets it go, they'll look at it very differently and are forced to look at it objectively. To be able to do this instantly via Youtube is fantastic.

I'm a great fan of Youtube as it also encourages interactivity between creatives and audiences. 

On Youtube most of the comments left along side the animations made by students on the courses I've run are very positive. They're from their friends, families and some times teachers, all very short notes of encouragement, but positive.

This is an example
"tht was sick!!! wish my teachers took time to teach with some type of must of took some time to do tht but it was well worth it bce it made for an enjoyable video"

Check out these comments left by students from all over the world, funny, positive and encouraging. 

Monday, September 8, 2008

Using animation to explore issues around mental health.

As I travel around the UK, Europe and occasionally further, my aim is to collect, information and evidence of 21st Century learning and share via this blog with photo's, videos, interviews and what ever I can get my hands on. Exposing the impact of schools, authorities , individuals, (students and teachers) conferences and companies who are having an effect on driving education into the 21st Century. In some cases people may not even realise that their project, school or methods are in any way related to 21st Century Learning.

My first entry is about a school I worked with for a week last term.

The head of Art at the Bewdley School, Worcestershire , UK encouraged a small group of year ten students to apply for funding from a local organisation called FLOSS. The students filled in the forms themselves and raised the money to pay for me to work with both year ten art groups and create a series of short animations. Nearly fifty students in all made twelve films over four days.

The criteria for the funding was that the work must be of benefit to the wider community, so the students chose mental health as the focus for the animations. The finished films have been made into DVD's and will be sent to local schools for use in class as a starting point for discussion on this tricky subject area, mental health.

Animation is a great medium for exploring mental health as the film Kalypso below shows. A short animation film about eating disorders written and filmed by the students. They were able share their experiences, feelings and thoughts using various art techniques familiar to them.

I think this is great example of 21st Century Learning, not only did the students make the films, but they also raised the money to make the films and had a strong idea about where and how the films should be distributed.

All the films are currently on Youtube.