Friday, 30 November 2012

Lighter than air.

Towards the end of the Film Darwin and Capt'n go in search of the QV 1, in a pedal powered dirigible, not too dissimilar to the one I take to work on days when it isn't too windy. The following video is a compilation of digital line tests that either did or didn't make it into the final version of this scene. The final comp is at the end of the video. I've greyed out the stop motion bits, that were not my stuff by typing: This is not my stuff" over them. Just so you know...

ZeppSmall from Felix Sputnik on Vimeo.

Monday, 1 October 2012


In the final version, the map creases up into a vortex, when the island sinks. We were trying to retain a decent amount of stiffness so it looked like paper rather than cloth. Here is my mockup, done in photoshop, to indicate what level of angularity we were looking for. Then some poor bloke had to sort out how to do it for real...

Sunday, 30 September 2012


Here are all the elements that made up the first scene in the titles. All the ones that were hand drawn, that is. The ship was animated separately in Flash and then tracked in. The clean up (or, in this case, mess up) was done by the delightful Justine Waldie, Assistant animator supreme and Queen of the wobbly line. By the way, the last bit is not the final composition, it's just my comp with everything in it's proper place.

WIPMermaids from Felix Sputnik on Vimeo.

The garish colours were necessary to allow the compositors to colour key on any specific hue and pull a matte from it, should it be required. Usually we just used a specific blend mode, like "overlay" or "soft light", to effect the paper-tone ever so slightly.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Big Zoom

I blogged before that some of the backgrounds had to be insanely big to facilitate zoom ins and still satisfy the 2000 pixel screen resolution for cinema. Here is a zoom into the Title map to show just how detailed every part of the map had to be...

BigZoom from Felix Sputnik on Vimeo.

Terra Firma...

...and 70% not so firma. Here is the title sequence map and the "4 corners of the globe"

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

The Bounce

And here is my slap-comp of the bounce at the end of the Title sequence... I was particularly pleased with the Easter-Island scene, I just drew a single turnaround of one statue and then rearranged them in "Flash©" and bounced them around like in a giant game of skittles...

Tryptich from Felix Sputnik on Vimeo.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Too saucy...

There is a scene at the end of the titles, just before the rats do "riverdance" when the pirate ship knocks down a merman, that adorns a label of one of the maps. Here is my first rough animation of that scene, where I added a mermaid for extra lovelyness. However, it was deemed too saucy for the movie and looking at it now, I agree, but you can't blame me for trying...

merman from Felix Sputnik on Vimeo.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Hold your horses

When I first got the story board for the USA segment, I envisioned the stage coach being pursued by the pirates, and the cavalry intervening. As it turned out the posse chasing them away was a mixture of cowboys 'n indians (forgive the political incorrectitude) perhaps doing so as rival stage-coach-robbers. Here, however, is a first, much bouncier coach, albeit without driver.

HorseCoach from Felix Sputnik on Vimeo.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Poseidon post

Here is a slap comp I put together of the Poseidon scene to let the compositors at Aardman know where I wanted to go...

PoseidonMockup2 from Felix Sputnik on Vimeo.

Good ol' US of A

Ok, the DVD is out, so I suppose I can blog some actual scenes, without someone getting upset. Here are some Designs for the most involves scene in the Titles, the Cowboy and Indian one. I'll be posting how I put that one together next... so hang in there...

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Walk the line

I was trying to find a procedural way of adding some shading and bleeding to my animation line, to give the impression of ink that has sat on the paper for ages. Even though, at the time of the film, the maps would have been brand new. I guess it's for the same reason that all medieval films have castles in them that look ancient and ruined, though they would have been new back then. Here are some mockups illustrating the various stages to make fill, line and shadow-matte into the final image...


For some bizarre reason this film ended up containing 3 items that I am particularly fond of. Mr Darwin, the Dodo and Zeppelins. I happen to have a 3 foot model of the Hindenburg in my living room, held up by strings rather than hydrogen in order to avoid mishaps... Here is an early attempt to make a flight cycle in Flash. I was trying to get it to look fake 3D, I think it worked...

Zeppelin from Felix Sputnik on Vimeo.

Thursday, 2 August 2012


While working out of my friend "Uli's" studio in Camden, I kept sending "linetests to the aardmanners, to keep them updated. Here are 2 of them, "Windrose" and "Poseidon".

PoseidonLinetest1 from Felix Sputnik on Vimeo.

Windrose linetest from Felix Sputnik on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012


The transition from Stop motion into the first scene of the "London calling" sequence was supposed to have a camera move on it. The footage of the boat was however already shot and there was no material at the head to facilitate such a move. This is the animatic from those happy times when I still believed the move could be done...

windrose from Felix Sputnik on Vimeo.

Girls with fishtails

Here is a quick cycle of a mermaid that you may be able to see in the movie if your eyes are quick enough... I used them to spiff up the journey to Panama, but due to speed of editing and motion blur, the little creatures are just as likely to be seen in this shot, as they are in the wild... but, you can see one here.

mermaid2 from Felix Sputnik on Vimeo.

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Raphus Cucullatus

The movie happens to have as it's real hero a bird that is so close to my heart that mere coincidence should not be able to explain the fact that Dodo movie meets Dodo nut by sheer serendipity. But, as I am not superstitious, randomness can be the only explanation... Here is a picture of my home-made umbrella and the window in our front door.

Ginormous files

As I was beginning to set up backgrounds for the "London calling" sequence, the files quickly exceeded the 2 gigabyte limit of Photoshop documents and I had to begin saving them as PSB files (Photo Shop Big?). As you may be able to ascertain from the images below, with the right hand framing of a scene being at least 2000 pixels wide, the entire map would be more than 20000 pixels by 9000 pixels to satisfy the requirements of a cinema resolution (2k) artwork. I therefore decided to strategically split the sequence up into overlapping segments that could be handled during compositing. Those elements could than be mapped onto a 3D surface and make up the path followed by the camera. As most transitions were cuts, rather than camera moves, the transitions could be hidden and the whole sequence looked like one continuous move on a giant map. I hope the sequence of images below illustrate the setup of the background and the arrangement of the individual scenes. No paper was harmed in the making of these artworks, it's all digital.

Sunday, 24 June 2012


In an earlier version of the titles, the pirates visited Egypt. This bit never made it into the final sequence, but here are some designs...

More map furniture...

Some li'l beasties that were later to add to the general peril on the seas...

Kraken from Felix Sputnik on Vimeo.

Monkfish from Felix Sputnik on Vimeo.

Seasnake from Felix Sputnik on Vimeo.

Map Furniture

There are things on old maps that add to their "mapp-ness", like labels and sea monsters...

Flash animation

There were a lot of moving ships in two of the three sequences I animated, so I decided to fake mild 3-dimensionality by using Flash. I also like the ability to duplicate and re-time masses of objects and render them out almost (but not quite) resolution independent. Files over 4000 pixels wide tend to have one of the colour channels (yellow) wrap itself around and come out all offset in the render. Here is a loop of a ship, rocking forward and backwards, with the sails being scewed to suggest perspective...

Flash animation bouncing ship from Felix Sputnik on Vimeo.


Early versions of the storyboard included more flatulence than the finished item. They were omitted despite knowlege of the fact that nothing beats a bodily function joke in the movies... All wind related actions served the purpose of propelling the pirate ship swiftly and uncontrollably from some A to some B in the scene.

Different lines

I was trying to find a line that would work close up without losing detail and in a long shot without becoming so thin they would be invisible... Here are some different approaches...

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Maps and Islands

Setup of a few maps and the pirates on and island that's about to sink.

The Crew

These are some early doodles of the pirate crew... For budget reasons, a classical approach to this sequence, animating on paper and scanning the scenes, was out of the question. I therefore decided to do all artwork on my cintiq and then treat it to look like it was badly aged by sun and wind on old parchment paper.

Test Ship

Quick test making the ship move...

Loupe-ship from Felix Sputnik on Vimeo.

The Pirate ship

In the movie, the pirate Captains proud vessel is actually nailed together from 2 halves of non compatible ships of roughly the same size. My first task was to draw the ship simply enough to make it work as a scratchy engraving on an old map...

First Test

After the first meeting in Bristol, I decided to mock up a few animations to suggest which direction the whole thing could go in. Here is a quick tests I presented to the directors Peter Lord and Jeff Newitt. Never leave home without your peg-leg strap done up...

Pegleg Fail from Felix Sputnik on Vimeo.

The looting begins...

Last May, Aardman got in contact with me, asking if I would be interested to design and animate several 2D sequences for their new movie. I contemplated the offer for a second and went over to meet them. I'll be posting some pitch work that got me the job. Once the film is out on DVD in September, I'll blog some of the final sequences too, so, have patience. Here, is a little setup I cobbled together in Photoshop, using props from "The Corpse Bride". There is also a 3D version, in case you are in posession of some anaglyph glasses.