Fantastic set construction by Tom Bowness...
Who you are, your background - why did you get into animation?
My name is Tom Bowness, a recent graduate of Animation Production at the AUCB. I came from a Fine Art background, studying fine art through college and then further at a foundation course where I was taught painting, sculpture, photography and a new subject, animation. Of course I always enjoyed the Disney and Aardman classics as a child but never considered it as a career until we were taught the basics at my Foundation college. After that I new I wanted to take it further and learn how the films I loved when growing up were made.
What are your recent productions, who it is aimed at, where might people see them?
This year I have been working on a graduation short film named ‘Goat and the Greek’, where I was the lead set designer and builder. The film is a comedy short around 3 minutes, aimed at all ages, about an old partially sited Greek man who unintentionally causes mayhem and his pet Goat who’s constantly having to save his owner. Its light hearted, visually inviting and is a great tribute to the Aardman humor that we as a team grew up with.
What hardware do you use ?
We had quite a small room where we built the sets and, as the sets turned out to be bigger than the door frame we had to animate in there as well. It did however turn out to be an ideal studio with the main setup consisting of three Dedo lights situated around the set, an overhead Kino Flo light, An SLR camera and a green screen. We used a Cannon DSLR 450D that was linked straight into Stop Motion Pro, where the animators would check each frame to make sure the lighting, movement, composition was working.
How you use SMP in the production - how does it help your workflow ?
Before actual animation began each shot was keyed out in frames to get a better understanding of positioning on screen and to find out if movements could be achieved by the puppets. The scenes were then animated on 'two's' using x-sheets on the programme. The animators usually edited as they worked by hiding frames which helped them better determine if it looked as good as possible and what could be improved on in the next frames. Some frames were put on 'ones' in places of a shot to help the performance. The program is easy to use and helped speed up production of some shots, I used Chroma Key and rig removal often on the program and this saved so much time in post-production.
Can you tell us a little about how you make the imagery in your work? How do you make your puppets?
As I was the set builder it is slightly different than the armature making, but still has the same methods. Firstly I drew a rough map of the environment, marking where the characters will be standing/moving and the angle of the camera. To allow me know what needs to be built and what does not. From this I drew up some concept designs for the buildings and surroundings, once the director and team were happy with the designs I modeled a rough CG version in Maya to make sure the designs work as a 3D structure. With the help from our team, we built a miniature model of the set to make sure everything works together and the designs work as a physical 3D model. This was to ensure no time was wasted when building the real set. After everything was finalized I constructed the sets using mainly wood and plaster for the main buildings, and card, for finer details in close up shots.
What is next for you and your animation?
As a set builder I have always loved the sets in all of Aardmans films and shorts, I am currently trying to build my portfolio to hopefully work at some of Britain’s leading studios. I am pushing my self to gain as much experience as possible within the industry so one I can work for a studio, contributing work to future animated films.
You can find more information about Tom here.