05 November 2012

Kunjani'mation 2012

So despite my actions I am still alive, though my lack of an update is quite appalling nonetheless. A great deal has happened since my last post, but by far the most interesting was Kunjanimation 2012, the second edition of the original South African animation festival.

Much expanded, this years festival was host to hundreds of animators from across the country, fascinating workshops and talks, deplorable screenings of absolutely excellent local and international films (Thanks Ster kinekor, thanks Nu-metro) and all round festive atmosphere!

The festival centred around the V&A Waterfront, where I had the fortune (figuratively and literally) to attend the Gobelins master classes taught by animator, director and all round decent bloke Alexandre Heboyan. Unfortunately, attending the master classes excused me from many of the other awesome events of the festival, but it's ok, because everyone at those events hated me for being amongst the hotshots who managed to book for the masterclass.

The Masterclass was an in depth breakdown of Alex' performance animation workflow, and man. Man man man, it's a seriously logical workflow, and Alex is a seriously encouraging, honest and clear teacher. I'm definitely going to be making use of what I learned and I don't blame those who didn't apply fast enough for their envy - What a great experience.

But my luck in securing a seat in the workshop had everything to do with sitting two desks away from Daniel Snaddon at Triggerfish. Daniel is the only man I know crazy enough to organise an animation festival while working 29 hours a day as a lead animator on Khumba, and he is also crazy enough to be a close friend of mine. And while we're here in the past, before the festival, I can explain how I came to be in charge of the outreach component of the festival.

Again, I blame Daniel. But like he would tell me, it's my own damn fault.

Alexandre Heboyan, the Gobelins lecturer, Dreamworks Alumni and currently the director of his first animated feature film Mune, offered generously to give a free talk to students from under privileged communities. So I volunteered to head that up, sounds like something chicks would dig, right? Needless to say, the experience of organising the talk was a huge lesson to me. Through a convoluted and poorly illuminated search for help, I eventually came into contact with Leon Buchner, head of Visual Art and Design for the WCED(Western Cape Education Department), and Gary Kachelhoffer, head of the animation department at the Falsebay college, the only animation course to my knowledge in the Cape Flats. These guys did the real work, of getting the students with the aptitude and interest for animation aware of the talk, and of getting them there.

Triggerfish generously came to the table, offering us their viewing room as a venue, and WESGRO generously offered us Patricia de Lille, who unfortunately had a date with some rather unimpressed truck drivers and couldn't be there to enjoy the talk. A more interesting extra guest was Tumelo Selemolela, a friend and animator who fought alongside me on Khumba, who grew up in Alexandra township in Gauteng. Tumi had the challenge of standing up after Alex and talking about the path he took to find his career, and he did an awesome job.

At the end of the day, despite my lack of experience in event management, the students got to the talk and left with their heads exploding with awesomeness.

Me, talking about talking

Alex, blowing minds

Tumi, giving us his story

Alex and the animation students from the Falsebay College, in the Triggerfish Parking area.

From that point my stress levels decreased, and I was able to enjoy the festival, a true celebration of the art of animation. The next night was the opening ceremony, and the Cape premiere of Adventures in Zambezia, the first Triggerfish feature film. 

The opening ceremony.
You may think I came this far back to get the perfect shot, but actually I was trying to spot all the food platters.
From there the festival was all day and all night animation, I made it to only one other screening, the closing ceremony screening of le Tableau (the Painting) directed by Jean-François Laguionie, who I got to have lunch with on the harbour. He's an incredibly knowledgeable man, which would have changed my life if I could understand French.

Left to right, Triggerfishies Samantha Cutler (Animator), Vanessa Sinden (Producer), Anthony Silverston (Director), Daniel Clarke (Concept Artist), Karen Botha (Art Director) hanging out with Alexandre Heboyan (French) before the screening of le Tableau.
I can't really say I feel comfortable in normal everyday life since, the festival was a buffet of opportunities for everyone. Had it never happened, I feel my future would be painted with a different brush. 

(lol painter jokes.)

Daniel and I at the closing ceremony after party. Being hunks.
Photo by Shannan Taylor.

In the meantime, I'm lecturing on animation principles and drawing at the SAE institute Capetown, and looking for any freelance work that hasn't seen me sneaking up behind it. Have a look at my new portfolio blog, and also check out these stories I've been writing

I've been considering alcoholism as a career booster towards my goal of one day being a renowned author. What you guys think?

08 September 2012

Showreel 2012

So I finally got around to cutting a new showreel. If you'd like the password, drop me an email at vimukun@hotmail.com, it's available for employment and educational reasons only.

In other news I've discovered the thing they call Tumblr, and subsequently started a blog for my short stories, which you can see here.

Short stories are a hobby for me. I'm terrified that if I ever started writing for a living it would immediately stop being fun.

Which is not to say animating for a living is no fun, it's just that words take a lot more energy to extract colour from.

Many happy returns from the world of questionable freedoms!

Good night.

03 September 2012


As of Friday my contract at Triggerfish is complete. With the animation deadline for the film Khumba passed I now return to floating in limbo, gnawing on chocolate with raisins in it while contemplating the work I have done on my first feature film.

Over 100 artists have contributed to Khumba, and the final look of the film is greater than the sum of its parts. Everyone there is working unbelievably hard to make some seriously international quality work, and I can say that what has been done has been done as a team. No one person can take credit for how engaging each shot has turned out, because it passed through so many departments with trust and the confidence that the shot will only get better as it changes hands. I've made friends I plan to keep, and I've contributed to a project I'm excited to see completed - it really is a beautiful looking film.

That said, every day was frantic - deadlines were a gift and a curse. We had to come up with solutions to keep the quality of animation high and consistent while delivering it on a 3 second per day quota. My idea of a good animation workflow has completely changed, and in the future I plan to post about what I've learned in terms of 3D character animation workflow... I have a new appreciation for spline that the 2D purists will spit on - I welcome the argument =)

I can't say the past nine months have been easy, but I can't say they haven't been fun. I've had the pleasure of working with the finest animation talent in the country, and I can't stop thanking you guys for all you've taught me and the good times we've had learning and working together.

Until next time, best wishes to the artists still completing Khumba and to the ones that I left with, I hope we can work together again soon.

If you would like to see my 2012 showreel, drop me mail at vimukun@hotmail.com             

19 May 2012

Out, in progress

I'm sitting in a mountain of snotty tissues, clinging the power cable of my laptop close in case it lets loose and sets fire to my cosy recovery den. The thing that is most fun about winter in Capetown, is your clothes are more wet coming off the line than going on.

For two months now I've been toying around with a short film concept, and last month flew down to Johannesburg to shoot a portion of it and visit some good friends, when they let me. The film is short, less than a minute long, using stop-motion animation with clay puppets and my reluctant body.

Here is one clay puppet, the antagonist and omphalos of my little story, has he not marvelously sexy legs?

 Somewhere in the time between now and then, I blocked myself and my good friend Thomas in my tiny rented room, behind a barricade of rubbish and nonsense, to shoot all the interior shots for the project.
Here's Thomas, helping me to cover one side of my room with bad journalism, pre-lock down.

This entire thing fell down while we took a break, and had to be redone before shooting.
Nonsense Barricade. We could not leave the room during the shoot, to preserve continuity. Thomas is still recovering from the isolation.

The project consists of using stop motion techniques and my ectomorphic-pseudo-athleticism to create peculiar effects, and use them to tell a story. Here's one such effect, shot that day:

Next week, if my nose permits it, I hope to shoot some of the exterior shots, and in the following months, if I do not scare him away, Thomas is going to design the sound for this picture poem we are making.

Watch this space: should it be that I survive the winter, there will be more posts.

08 April 2012

Read a book

 I want to make a point I don't feel is made often enough in the field of visual art, and I'll hopefully share some of my concerns for a generation that may be reducing it's own potential for imaginative thought. My point is this: for the most part, people do not read enough. In fact, for the most part, people feel it is straight up uncool to read. If you're reading this, you have my respect, and hopefully these are opinions you share with me. I have been in many conversations with people who openly mock my love of reading, especially in the case of a book that has been made into a film:

With a smug expression they will say "who has time to sit and read? a picture's worth a thousand words. oh, and by the way, did you see how cool I was when I used an ancient quote to make a stronger sounding argument? Gee, I'm awesome." Well, I'm afraid to say, despite this petulent fellows hipster shorts, he is right: a picture is worth a thousand words... or so. Except he probably doesn't have a thousand words to put together. What he is missing is this: if you know how to read, and you pick the right words, a word can be worth 10 pictures. Frankly, I find the above attitude destructive to the imagination. The whole point of descriptive language is to condense ideas, to give flow to conception. words are a tool we can use to build universes inside our heads, in fact rational thought is impossible without them. You need words to think, and if you, like me, live to create images, you have to think imaginatively. if you want to bring your imagination to life, you need to transform images, feelings and events inside your brain into tactile, visible things that others can appreciate and comprehend. 

And if you want to take what is in your head and put it on paper- you're welcome to. But you'll only get what's in your head to start with. That's why it is so hard to draw a human being without having one in front of you to reference. If you do not know their anatomy, their forms, their surface reaction to light and their gestures, you will not accurately portray them on the page- instead, you will get this something like this: 


Well, how do you get this stuff in your head? Simple. You study it. "did he say study? Ugh". That's right. you study. And sure, photographic memory is fantastic- but I'm guessing if you're reading this you probably don't have it. So how do you quickly and painlessly remember all this stuff you want to know? You describe it to yourself. You use language to condense visual ideas into concepts that your brain is designed to contain. And where do you learn these words that so elegantly condense imagery into chunks of linguistic goodness? In books. In conversation. In magazines. Your brain is capable of creating images, but as I said, you need that vocabulary in order to make images that are believable and communicative. When you read and you comprehend, you're not seeing words on a page anymore, you're seeing images, hearing sounds and experiencing experiences that the author has captured and presented to you so you can take them, so you can keep them with you and call up those images, those experiences whenever you like, whenever you may need them. It trains you to engage your imagination, to test what you DON'T know so you can strengthen the weaknesses of your own imagination.

Reading exercises your brains ability to construct images and places and people and worlds. Reading is not being encouraged enough in our schools, and it is weakening the imaginations and the curiosity of our youth. The human brain is better at rendering graphics than any computer in the world- if you've ever seen a movie better than your best dream, scarier than your worst nightmare, please drop it's title in the comments below so I can check it out, so i can either be blown away, or email you back to give my sympathies for the poor quality of your dreams. 

04 February 2012

Pick-pocketing Creation

I recently read a piece over on Animation SA by SAE institute’s Riaan Theron on style and the idea of theft in art. It makes a strong case for assimilating the techniques of others, and discourages the idea students may have that doing this is theft.  

Riaan is the head of animation at the SAE Insitute here in Capetown, and you can check out his article here. Although I disagree with a few of his points the central idea of the article rings true: Style is hard to invent on the spot. You need to be taught at least the basics of a craft before you can progress, and from there on you will need to learn more and more sophisticated techniques in order to fulfil your creative vision.

How? By trying them out. By copying the works of other artists you admire and combining them into something unrecognisable: Your own style.

I'm by no means saying that your style should be exclusively comprised of other peoples art: That would be stealing and would be highly artificial, and in my opinion, lacking genuine creativity.

Riffing on Riaan’s post, I’ll propose a definition for creativity. It’s a bizarre thing, but in essence it is the act of combining several things in order to make something new that fulfils a purpose. It covers a range of things from engineering to music to language to making a sandwich, but in all cases the components of the engine/song/language/lunch need to come from somewhere.

Using the example of visual art: it is comprised of technique and creativity(in varying ratios). The creation is a series of choices, about what technique, and with what content you will create something.
So what I’d really like to say, and I know you’ll agree, is that content is what’s going to sell you as an artist. What’s NOT going to sell you as an artist is the way you may or may not shade like Albrecht Dürer.

That said, good technique will go far to rendering your work in a way that makes sense to anyone other than you, but trying to understand the world and draw content from it* is far more important in the quest to come up with new and creative ideas.

So, that leaves the question: What is good content?

I’m afraid I can’t answer that in any absolute terms, but I think I can guarantee that the conception of “good” content will always change with the times, and to keep up your own creativity in the times you need to stick with them.

On a different note, for your convenience I’ve shifted the focus of my links to some of the awesome SA talent I have the good fortune of knowing and working with, so click the links up top to the right at any time to escape my ramblings and feel the awesomeness. ^-^

On that exact note, last week’s drawings are up on the UltimateDrawing Tigers blog, go check it out NAW!!

*My next post, should it ever come to be, is going to be on the topic of studying life in the name of making more effective shit.

29 January 2012

Sandy Toes

It's been horrendously long since my last post, and today i finally found a moment to give an update. I've now found a box in a house in a lovely suburb  in Cape Town to call home, it's affordable and there's a sink and it very seldom tries to bite me. I will upload a photo of my box when it looks less like a hobo lives there!

It's nearly the end of my second month working at Triggerfish and the time has flown. There's alot to making a movie I could never have imagined. Already the scale of the thing is a life time supply of intimidation, and the challenge of meeting deadlines and delivering quality work is both fun and stressful. That said, I've learned more in these two months than I did in a year at City Varsity. The Studio is popping with some of the most talented people I have ever met, and it's easy to become inspired just by walking around and looking at the beautiful work being done on this film. Not that there is much time for walking about :)

Nother town, nother drawing group! And this time, it comes complete with a blog of it's very own. Some of my works been put up alongside the uber-talent of Triggerfish, and my knees wobble in excitement to show you the awesomeness that is ULTIMATE DRAWING TIGERS.