Feature – GameCityNights – Season 5 Episode 3

Posted: May 28, 2014 in Feature, GameCity
Tags: , , , ,

After last month’s Worldbuilding talk was deemed so successful it seem foolish to stop the ball rolling right there. So we made a small step from discussing games for the moment…


GameCity 9 has an official start date of October 25, meaning there will no doubt be some form Halloween thing going on at least for one night and suggestions for things to happen during the festival are welcome. Was there something you think would’ve made last year’s festival better? Don’t keep it to yourself, let them know!

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This cyborg-eque model is a armature which will have individual parts placed over. When working on Pirates! they had specialists in various areas of the body.

Kerry Dyer is a freelancer working in stop motion animation (SMA) and also makes props for TV adverts and works on custom figures. Starting off at The University of Wales, Newport, she travelled to Bristol to attend a training course to help on Chicken Run. Dyer has worked on The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! for Aardman and The Fantastic Mr Fox. Having worked on several projects in her career, Kerry warns that adverts and other projects can last from a couple of weeks to even a couple of years.

What can be said about stop motion animation – “it’s a style that grabs attention” states Dyer, which is by no means an understatement. You just have to check out a snippet from something like The Fantastic Mr Fox and you can instantly see the difference compared to more commonly used forms of animation.

oogliesOOglies, a CBBC series involving various produce coming alive, was Dyer’s longest project of two years. After showing a brief clip which was a couple of minutes long it was revealed that it took about 20 seconds per person each day which is apparently fast paced, especially when it’s compared to a film where it might be 4 seconds a day. A full days’ work for 4 seconds, it’s astounding.

A typical day on OOglies starts up with setting up shots, making sure the right eyes and thanks to the freeform-ity of the show, mainly that there were no mouths to animate syncing to audio and working with fruit and veg (“puppets that weren’t puppets”) made for the opportunity to rewrite the story to fit more in with what was available. All this made for an appealing job. This was made easier by the audio being added later to fit the animation, when in the cases of mouth movement the audio is recorded beforehand and the animation has to fit what has already been pre-recorded.

Then came the bit which blew my mind that was something I probably knew deep inside but didn’t want to believe was that in many cases it wasn’t always plasticine being used but foam latex over copper wire for the need of consistency. Whereas characters like Morph (If you’re old enough to remember) and Creature Comforts don’t need to be as consistent for their as-when-needed ability to be more flexible.

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Here is an image foot for a hula girl mold. The general rule is make solid mold to make soft pieces which will eventually be made from silicon

Like the film industry creative thing the SMA world is super competitive, with work placements being most helpful in Kerry getting a job – combined with lucky contacts via her tutor and spending over a year working for free to get the experience. She recommends that if you no have contacts, look. Dyer got her internship on The Fantastic Mr Fox because of some friends tracking down contacts, but she warns that if you do so, please be polite. Get out and meet people, these jobs will probably not be advertised and many of Kerry’s jobs were obtained by word of mouth from friends, both paid and unpaid.

Kerry Dyer’s Top Tips:

  • On a CV it’s massively good to name things such as production, game, company, art leader, lead producer or director. Try to give names that other people will recognise and can contact about you.
  • Even though it’s good to have a speciality you may find on smaller productions it’s beneficial to be more general with your skill set and have something else to go with your core skills.
  • Get yourself a website, portfolio, blog etc. If no one sees your work, how can you get any work?
  • Get your face and name out there. Dyer volunteered at film festivals and networking events, even though it may be a mixed bag, your most important task is to get it online. It may be obvious but it has to be reinforced, use all social media at your disposal, track important people down and email them (nicely) your work.
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The Pirate Captain had 1364 mouths. Just for one character. With approximately 300 puppets in the film including background characters, that can be a lot of mouth action. For the main character for Pirates! the Pirate Captain is silicon with only the forehead made out of plasticine, with the same practice on many of the other characters using mainly premade parts.

A few questions asked from the audience: What were her tasks compared to then and now? – On The Fantastic Mr Fox she made tea and collected cups, nice intern stuff and then a miracle(ish) happened. After a bad storm in London shut down transport she was the only one who came into work for three days and then received the confidence of her internship people who got her making hands. She still makes a lot of hands to this day, and has recently set up a display of hands in everything she’s done hands throughout the ages. I have several notebooks, so we all have our quirks.

Does Kerry worry CG production will take over? Due to technical improvements instead of massive team doing SMA you have a smaller production crew using CGI. “Every so often this argument is thrown up every now that SMA is failing to CG” Kerry replies, “but it doesn’t, it keeps coming back. It’s not going anywhere .Maybe this is less so for feature films as it is more cost effective, but for kids shows it’s a quick way of putting together a kid’s show”. However in Pirates she reveals in big crowd scenes those at the back are actually CG characters and they don’t look as good.

GameCityNights is an event that happens on the last Thursday of every month at Antenna in Nottingham. For more information check out http://nights.gamecity.org/

During the night Kerry handed out some nice sheets of paper with many links you all may find useful if you would like to find out more about SMA and the like:

stopmotionben.com gallery
Stopmotionmagazine on Youtube
A guide to building puppets

Armature and rigging suppliers

Modelmaking and Sculpting Suppliers

And for the wonder woman herself!

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