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Douce Angoisse: Live in London

SYF are proud to present a new work from the video department. For the last months we've been following around SYF friends Douce Angoisse, in an attempt to capture sexy french-electro lightning in a bottle, under unforgiving live-gig circumstances.
Part gig video, part tour movie, part experiment in filming up the singers nose while trying not to distract the audience - we give you Douce Angoisse: Live in London.

Links to the full film on the usual video sites are below. We've also got a full vimeo album, with some of the best tracks from the film as separate videos (for you lazy people) and of course our Hackney Wicked 2010 video, also featuring the band.

Visit our services page to find out more about our Man&Cam hire for similar productions, and for general Canon EOS hire.

Contact to improve the standards of your line-up.

p.s epilepsy warning. Also, 1080p FULL SCREEN TOP VOLUME GO!

Concerning LEGO, Part 1.

This new year marks a decade since our first commercial LEGO project, and more than ten years since we first released the movies that would go on to shape a major internet pastime and a whole movement in film making. I realised that no one concise record of our relationship with LEGO and the impact it has had, exists online until now - so over a series of two posts I will do my best to offer a comprehensive view. This first part outlines our history with LEGO, while the next will focus on the 'brickfilm' hobby as a whole.

No one person or group invented LEGO film making. Who could claim authorship over the animation of common objects, by means of traditional method? Yet for our sins, Spite Your Face Productions must concede to have pioneered this peculiar field. I myself had been toying with minifigs in films since 1996, and when we first publicly uploaded the experimental All of the Dead in the late nineties, it was one of only two LEGO stop-motion pieces to be found on the entire internet. It's bold to make any certain claims about lady internet, but she was younger then and the video-hosting options for Joe Shmo much more limited. It seemed incredible more people weren't experimenting with something so accessible, but the longest most thorough search (probably with Webcrawler in Netscape) only uncovered one singular other work, and not a man alive could tell you what that was now.

It's hard to remember civilization, much less the internet, before Youtube. But in the first age of Spite Your Face, things were different. Video content was dominated by forgotten sites like AtomFilm and iFilm, which mostly featured commercial content and trailers, but would also host outsider materials that met a certain criteria. This was the age of Kevin Rubio's Troops, Sandy Collora's Batman: Dead End and it's how this whole 'lego thing' came about...

Lego have been using moments of stop-motion in their advertising since at least the 1950s and the product has continued to lend itself to the craft since that time. In the early days, the most common sight was the progressive 'magical' build of models from brick to completion, then with the introduction of the minifig and other complex parts, attention turned more to character animation. LEGO is unique in the gifts it offers the stop-motion animator. It is small, light, affordable, available in great quantity and variety and the specific quality of it's plastic (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene if you're interested) ensures it as both durable to studio rigours, and that its various hinges and levers hold their pose. No other product outside the pro-armature market offers all of these properties together, so its role as a popular entry-level film tool should come as no surprise.

At the turn of the millenium, the democratisation of technology had come far enough that LEGO thought to incorporate film making tools in their product, thus developing the Steven Spielberg Movie Maker set. Around the same time we were following up the improvised madness of All of the Dead with the reductio ad absurdum ONE: A Space Odyssey, and both were proving popular online. This was a time of great change within The LEGO Group and the films we made for them were not only their first minifig-centric animations, but the company's first foray into viraling, and to making commercials for platforms other than conventional broadcast. The work we did as distributors, as well as content providers, forges a path for many future campaigns.

The third piece of the puzzle came from no less than Terry Gilliam, who was interested in commissioning a short film from LEGO after finding some fan made Python models on a Japanese site. This unlikely trinity of circumstances is what lead LEGO to commission us with the legendary Monty Python and the Holy Grail in LEGO.

The Python Film as we call it, took off. Aside from its role as a popular special feature on a best selling DVD, it also topped the charts for animation and comedy on the leading video sites, holding on to those spots for many years. At one time you could tab between iFilm, AtomFilm, Yahoo Movies and Veoh (remember that?) to find The Python Film all at number one, while our Star Wars and Spider-Man films bounced around the rest of the top five. Which is perhaps where the story appropriately becomes less about SYF and more about everyone else, because that's when we found ourselves the spearhead of a movement.

It is difficult I think, for a commercial animation company to negotiate the idea of having a fan base. Many artists, musicians for instance, go into what they do to deliberately accumulate such a thing. Animators, as a breed, do not. The hobby of 'brickfilms' has grown beyond us into one of the major pastimes of the internet and amongst the most ubiquitous forms of content on youtube, yet children and parents alike continue to let us know they have discovered our work and been inspired to join the club. That club as I understand it, is still centered around, a site started to showcase one LEGO fans work, but which has long since evolved into its own self sustaining community of experimenting film makers, with their own competitions and sub-genres.

To know that you are inspiring people is enormously flattering and I remain hugely grateful for the positive messages we receive, but the matter of it is, this thing they call brickfilm has evolved into its own form of film making which is quite apart from anything we ourselves do. The currency within brickfilms seem to be the charm of their artifice, whereas for SYF our aspiration has always been to create 'a lego reality' within our films. Spider-Man: The Peril of Doc Ock for example, made the very first use of flesh tone minifigs instead of the traditional yellow, and would have been most viewers introduction to this evolutionary leap - yet we have never heard or read one comment in that regard. The conclusion this forces, is we must have been successful in creating a certain level of buy-in, that people have always taken the characters more human characteristics as granted.

Be that as it may, we have a responsibility to our protege, to offer the creative parenting they ask of us. So in the second part to this post I will be offering a critical study of brickfilms as a whole, providing our definitive take on a decade of community film making.

5th Annual Giant Robot Fighting Tournament

Submitted for your approval, the long awaited product of the 2010 GameCity LEGO Animation Workshop.

SYF/GameCity LEGO Animation Workshop 2010 from Spite Your Face on Vimeo.

This is our second year in a row doing the workshop for GameCity festival in Nottingham, which is a free public event where kids could drop in and try their hand at animating. The workshop was very different this year, with far greater numbers attending and a change in tactic for how we proceeded. Like last year, we still had some little stars who could have been left to make a whole film themselves, but there were still more children looking to add their creations into the mix. This demanded something close to a narrative, something better resembling an overall plan than last years unbridled stream of consciousness. Both approaches have their merits, but something had to be done to accommodate the sheer volume of zigurats and giant robots.

The logical solution according to my head, and the best way to house this miscellany of goliaths, was to channel Yukito Kishiro. And so we present the 5th Annual Giant Robot Fighting Tournament (don't look for tournaments one through four, we made that up). Quite whether that's a tournament of fighting Giant Robots, or a tournament where Giant Robots are fought, is not entirely clear. Certainly the main antagonist (he's the antagonist, btw) seems to just be a guy in Judo pants.

The 'story' developed over the three and a half days, equal parts youthful contribution and creative interpretation. The finalé for example came in stages; one girl contributed the mummies, who were instantly added to the chief roster, then another boy dictated that their mode of attack be singing. Finally, it was my own destructive assertion that the remainder of the LEGO be poured onto the guys head (from a sonically induced fourth dimensional meta-portal, if it isn't perfectly obvious) , providing a spectacular conclusion to both the film, and the event itself. The poignant (poignant) juddering hair-piece in the final shot, is pure serendipity.

It's also worth mentioning that we ran out of LEGO on the third day. The pile you see poured out at the beginning of the film, is but a third of what TLG contributed - but the children of Nottingham made short work of it!

Music comes courtesy of Rebecca Mayes (yes, that Rebecca Mayes) she of musical games reviews for Escapist and GamePeople. Rebecca actually composed the music for another, thematically similar project running along side ours at GameCity, in which she and Adam 'best game on the iPhone' Saltsman developed a game in three days. Both projects came from ideas submitted by children, so a suitably playful score developed that prove successful with both projects.

Finally apologies to anyone involved who can't find their creations in the final film. We've tried to document everything and there are more photos on the GameCity flickr stream. You can also find and link to our official host of the film, and the YouTube version.

GameCity 5

SYF will again be appearing at Gamecity Festival in Nottingham this year. From this tuesday, 26th October to 30th we will be running more drop-in LEGO animation workshops. Visit the official Gamecity site for more info. We'll also be updating as it happens via Facebook and Twitter.

Spite Your Face Book

Shameful, isn't it? Not a single post all summer. It's not for want of things to report; far from it. We're enjoying one of our busiest years and there are big changes happening at SYF towers. Much of what we've been producing, we can't host on the site for marketing reasons, but for clients and business contacts we have a wealth of extra material ready to view, which we can share if it's pertinent to the project. So if you can't see samples of what you're looking for here, please just ask, because we might well have already done something related.
In the meantime, you can enjoy offcuts from various summer projects in this video:

As you can see, we're doing more live video work at SYF these days, and you can hire me (Tony) as a run&gun, man&cam for your commercial projects, gig shoots etc. Visit the SERVICES link at the top for full details.

To make up for the appalling lack of updates on this blog, you can now join our regularly updated network. We have a new Facebook page to keep you in check with new projects, and for entertainment value you can follow my already very active twitter feed. The SYF twitter offers news and updates on our activity, but also a healthy amount of stupid jokes, cultural analysis, politics, plus reviews of films that I'm still watching. It's the best way to find out what's really going on. Plus you can also subscribe to our profiles and channels on Vimeo, Youtube, Flickr, and even, dare I say it, DeviantArt.


Emotion Tracking: Thoughts on Rotoscoping

A recent project has had me exploring the craft of rotoscoping, and I thought I might share my thoughts on this oft maligned technique.

Some of these sequences work better than others, but on the whole, for myself, I find them pleasant to look at. Yet this alone is a compliment rarely made towards rotoscope, which in animation circles is considered a fancy word for tracing, or cheating, and synonymous with ugliness.

Rotoscoping , according to Wikipedia, "is an animation technique in which animators trace over live-action film movement, frame by frame, for use in animated films" - which highlights the problem most people have with traditional rotoscope right there - "frame by frame". What is a length of film or video? A moment captured in time? Nothing of the sort. A moment exists infinitely. Technology might be used to record that moment at 25 frames per second, or a thousand frames per second, but life itself has no frame rate. So a length of film in that sense, is but a sequence or arbitrary, semi-regular instances, captured over a finite time.

In animation, we capture a moment more selectively. The gesture of an arm, say, is portrayed by the artist selecting what they see as the most important or effective instances, needed to deliver the meaning or focus of that gesture. This act of artistic interpretation, impressed upon the canvass of time, is what allows us to make judgments about animation. We can have favorite arm gestures, arm gestures that pass without meaning, or gestures that throw us out of a films reality, precisely thanks to that process of selection. This is why we dislike tracing.

Tracing, or rotoscoping, binds us to the artless selection process of the camera shutter, a selection which includes not only the desired focal action, but the inconsequential, involuntary movements too. This is not a problem for live action. In live action, if the focus of a shot is supposed to be the kick of a leg, then the behavior of the opposing leg, or of the neck or of the nose, are all part of the flow. The problem for the rotoscoper is that these involuntary motions are not captured in their entirety, but again in random static instances. A blink, or a baring of teeth might exist for but one frame, and the rotoscopers choice is to either follow this 'reality' dogmatically or selectively ignore it in pursuit of a more streamlined animation. To put it in laymen terms, think of the last nip-slip you scrutinized, or 9-11 video you watched frame by frame. We all know what the Zapruder film looks like - as a sequence of images it's completely abstract.
Roto image
This is what forced me to my own conclusions about the 'correct' way to rotoscope. The animations I've created are deliberately free from the 'true' line of the source material, and are deliberately low in frame count. I'm fortunate that the project allowed for this and that I wasn't forced to clean them up further, since to do so would have been to murder the art. Most of these sequences were done on threes (holding each image for three frames, running at 25 per second) which I honestly feel is the optimum frame rate for rotoscope, in any situation.

An inoccuous sounding statement, but one that opens a can of worms. Working on ones and twos (changing every frame, or every other frame respectively) is what we call 'full animation'. It is the stock in trade of the Occidental animator and tied almost inextricably to how our culture has decided animation 'should be'. Taking our lead from America, the west as a whole has succumbed to the dogma that persistence of vision, is integral to accepting sequential drawn imagery as 'real' - that to drop to a frame rate where we can register each image, is to dislocate the audience. Yet 'full animated' rotoscope is broadly accepted as dislocating the audience in precisely this way. Are we to conclude that certain illustration styles are simply unsuited to animation? That seems terribly limiting.

By proposing that rotoscope works best on threes, I place it within the remit of 'full-limited', a wholly other approach to animation favored by the Japanese. Full-limited proposes that animation can still thrive within the very limits of persistence of vision, by engaging the viewer with the chance to enjoy each image. That to see the drawing for what it is and to understand it as conveying a reality in the same instance, is our natural way of seeing. In short, they credit us with the ability to multitask.

Full-limited allows animation to be what it should be - drawings that move, and allows that description be applied to any art style. This was good for my purposes, since my other main conclusion through this, is that where rotoscope is concerned, there's a point at which you should just stop drawing. I entirely believe that very detailed drawing styles are appropriate to animation - just not rotoscope animation. It's the combination of unselective motion and unselective design that makes so much roto so ugly. For my own part, I made efforts to leave out anything that wasn't servicing the movement. Knowing that each animations relationship to its video source, was going to be disarmingly close no matter how loose I played it, I purposely left off noses or reduced whole bodies to silhouettes where the focus was supposed to be on the face.

The other golden rule I found, was that the trick is to illustrate over the image, rather than trace it. The distinction being, that using the video as a guide to where a hand aught be positioned in space, I would then draw a hand in that place, rather than slavishly scrawl where the fleshy pixels ended. I also found it helpful to watch each clip and then decide on an appropriate character design to depict it. In many cases I would use the real face as no more than a guide for rotation, like the old cross-hairs method, and apply an original animation to that, perhaps only using the video for key frames. Emotion tracking, if you will.

Anyway, that's what I learnt this week. Hope you enjoy my little experiments, and that I managed to get all the way through that, without mentioning A-Ha once.

Watch them bigger hyar.

GameCity Updates.

"GameCity has been bought to you today by the letters A, B, X, Y Up, Down and Select. GameCity is a Production of the Childrens Animation Workshop"

SYF have been at GameCity Festival all week, schmoozing with the greatest creative minds in the games industry and occasionaly humiliating ourselves in public forums. Between all this we even found time to run a three day, LEGO animation workshop. Kids from around Nottingham have been dropping by all week, to build giant models and learn the animation craft. In turn, their work has been showing on giant screens around Nottingham as part of the festivals LEGO Rock Band events.

We are proud to be able to show you today, the work of these young artists, many of whom took naturally to the craft and could be left to their own devices after just a couple hours. To find out more about the events and to see more pictures of the workshops, visit the Gamecity site as well as their Flickr stream.


SYF are very excited to be involved with the upcoming GameCity festival in Nottingham, England. If you don't know, GameCity is a videogames festival with a difference, focusing on the art, culture and industry of videogames and has been likened to Sundance.
As part of the GameCity Squared program, and in promotion of LEGO Rockband, we will be tutoring an open animation workshop between the 27th and 31st of this month. In the organisers own words:

"GameCity loves lego, as you can probably tell. We love lego games, we love lego bricks, we sleep on lego beds, and we love to make ANIMATED MOVIES WITH LEGO. Now you can too! Incredibly talented animators Tim Drage and Tony Mines have signed up and will be parachuting in from Spiteyourface HQ to create animation before your very eyes, and with your help!
As part of Gamecity Squared, London animation studio spiteyourface have committed to passing on their knowledge to a cadre of willing cadets. For the Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday of the festival, come along and sign up to try your hand at LEGO ANIMATION. This is a really special workshop, not to be missed.
The animated films created in this workshop will be exhibited throughout the festival, on our big screens! These will be walk-up events, bookable on the day - details will be on the big-screen. This is a not to be missed, one-off event..."

For more info visit the Gamecity site. Please come and join us, we look forward to meeting you.

Winter Update

First post in far too long again, and lots of bits and bobs we neglected to mention. First up a highly successful weekend at the aforementioned Animar Exhibition in Portugal, further work-related travel exploits in Morocco and Mallorca, and an appearance on ABC.
The main news today though is a full re-haul of the SYF website, which now contains a comprehensive and easily navigated library of our best work. This blog has also been reskinned, which represents a change of tact in post policy from here on in. Until now, we have mainly been using the blog for self-serving press announcements, but from today it's going to be more about self-defeating polemic, as it becomes a source for broad musings on the state of modern animation. I have a number of broad reaching essays I've been writing, that will start to raise their ugly heads over the coming weeks. So look forward to that. We're called Spite Your Face for a reason.

Anchor, Great Escape

Currently running on UK television, and probably elsewhere, is a new Anchor Butter commercial I directed with Tandem Films. In the tradition of out LEGO work, the piece is another classic film remake, but this time using hand animated fuzzy felt pieces.

Thrill as the funny cow follows the famous journey of Steve McQueen in this shot-for-shot remake of the Great Escape sequence. Imbedded below is the HD (720p) version from our Youtube channel. Click at the base to watch full screen (let it run in for slower speeds). Enjoy!

I.T Kwando

Hey nerds! A while ago I created the graphics and animations for this game produced by Errorware for HP. The game uses traditional pixel art and is modeled on 16bit console fighters like Final Fight, but transposed to an ordinary office setting. I meant to blog this one ages back and I'm pleased to say that in that time the game has garnered nearly 1million plays. You can help push it over that mark by visiting or playing below.

Animar Exhibition, February 14th

If anyone is reading this in Portugal, you might want to pop along to the Animar exhibition on the 14th February, where Tim and I will be showcasing our LEGO films in person. For all the people who email us asking how we do out thing, I put together a little making-of piece for the exhibition, a preview of which you can now watch below and on our Youtube Channel. Click the tag for HQ.

Since Youtube have started upgrading their video settings, we have be posting a selection of new HQ and HD material up there in the coming weeks, including more behind the scenes material - so please go have an explore.

New Python Material

As previously reported, the recent surprise demise of high-quality video host site Stage6, left the SYF site with a few dead video links. Stage 6 was an enormously useful tool to the online film maker, as it provided one with a convenient and immediate way to distribute video of an acceptable broadcast quality, to journalists and festival runners as required. The site will also be particularly missed by SYF because our films were amongst the most popular content there. All the same, its demise provided SYF with an opportunity to revise its online catalogue from scratch, remastering many of our older films from original source material - so now all our links are not only fixed, but they provide the best quality versions of our films ever seen.

Not only that, but as a taster of things to come, we're providing a new collection of promotional images for out Python movie, which journalists and webmasters are free to use, provided the appropriate credits and links are included. Click on the previews below to view larger images.

Finally on a related note, a special thanks also to the Guardian Guide, who gave us a shout out in last Sundays issue.

Stage6 R.I.P

Apologies to visitors discovering broken links to some of our HQ videos, this is due to the surprise death of Stage6 and new links will be in place as soon as possible. More details on this soon...

Market Kitchen

New Year, new broadcast commercial. Just before Christmas I completed another directing job with Tandem Films, this time a spot for the BBC. Not that the BBC have commercials - oh no.

The piece is for the food show Market Kitchen, and consists of a single 30 second shot in which we pass from Spring through to Winter. We used stop-motion animation to play with the idea of 'simulated' time-lapse photography, but at the same time, broke away from the confines of linear time to create a nonsensical, magical depiction of the passing of seasons.

If it's not broadcasting already, it should be running on BBC digital and cable channels withing the month, and then throughout the rest of the year. More details as they come

My Internet is Bigger than Your Internet

Common wisdom would have it that the popular video hosting site Stage6 is owned by DIVX, Inc. I would contest however, that Spite Your Face 'own' Stage6. At least this week.

Which is my roundabout way of telling you that our Spider-Man: The Peril of Doc Ock has been the featured video on their front page for a week now, meaning that our other contributions like Holy Grail in Lego and ONE: A Space Odyssey have also been dancing around the top of the featured videos chart.

In the past, those same films have topped the charts at Yahoo Movies, iFilm, Atom Films and Veoh - so in the age of online video saturation, it's good to know that the SYF can still kick it with the Ownage!


Because we're much cooler than you, SYF have been making the video for the first single from London's hottest new band, Ipso Facto. Harmonise is officially released next month from Disc Error Recordings, but we are proud to present you with the video from today.

The piece is modeled loosely on the final act of the 1929 G.W Pabst classic Die Büchse der Pandora (Pandora's Box) starring the iconic Louise Brooks - which when you look at the band, is hardly a massive leap of logic.

If you have a Myspace account (which you do, because you're on the internet) you can view some behind the scenes photos here, courtesy of the bands art director Ciaran O'Shea.

Meanwhiles, you can enjoy the production stills included in this post, and take your pick of how you want to enjoy the full video:

HQ versions available on the Disc Error site, where you can also buy the single, or by clicking the Youtube version below. Plus extra HQ version here.

The video was directed by me (Tony Mines), the DP as always was Tim Drage, with additional editing from Alec Rossiter and make up by Sophie Knock. Special thanks go out to Molinare and Tandem Films for use of their facilities.

Learn Em'

We're the featured video on the front page of Myspace today. And you're not.

Learn Em' is the new single from electro wrongens The Errorplains, and the music video there of, is directed by me.

The video is modeled around the old Nintendo Game and Watch© not us, the 1980's. All Rights Reserved series of hand held games, a decision reached mostly because it just looks cool, but also because of the tight schedule. The aim of the project, for us, was really to see how far we could take the idea of 2-frame animation. To try and relate a whole story, with action sequences (of a sort) using what should probably be too few frames to even create persistence of vision.

So anyway, go watch it on Myspace now, or find the HQ version on our Youtube channel, and let the world know what you think.

Here or here.

Making Star Wars The Han Solo Affair

The story behind The Han Solo Affair is really a story about 'keeping it real', as we used to say in the hood. The film came together in 2002, which was an important transitional phase for the Star Wars franchise as a whole. The Phantom Menace had been released some years earlier, but the world was still waiting for Attack of the Clones.

Episode 1 had bought about the now infamous explosion of Jar Jar toys, but the world was yet to be thrown fully into a revival of Star Wars mania. Sure there was a lot of peripheral stuff out there, but it was nothing like it is today - nothing at all.

In fact, as we were well aware, if the project happened it would be only the second time in Star Wars history that a short film had been produced under license, the first being the Boba Fett cartoon in the Star Wars Holiday Special.

This meant we had a responsibility to history, one we took very seriously.

The initial brief was to produce an Attack of the Clones animation. The movie was still months away, and while we had access to a certain amount of preview material, it just wasn't enough to tell the right kind of story. Sure our film was going to be a spoof, but it was a licensed spoof, and that was a big deal. We wanted to make something that fit neatly into the Star Wars universe without messing it up.

And we wanted Darth Vader.

So we started playing around with the original trilogy. Our basic idea was to take two consecutive points in the films, and make up our own story about what happens in between. So that, in theory, you could edit our lego sequence into the middle of the movie, and it would still make some sort of sense.

This same puritanism would guide us through the rest of the project, and dictate the look of the film. Strong shot compositions. Soft, analogue wipe transitions. Physical model spaceships. Hand rotoscoped light sabers. All more elegant weapons, from a more civilized age.

Sure there were easier ways to do some of the stuff we did, but we did it the hard way, and we did it on purpose...

The sets were built in the workshops at Legoland, where they create all the models for the park. We only had two days there to build everything, so made extensive notes on exactly what we would need.

The picture above is one such note, using a VHS copy of The Empire Strikes Back for reference.

This similarly, is a 'diagram' for the construction of the Bespin corridor sections. The idea was to build key locations which could be linked by 'Scooby Doo corridors' - sets designed to loop indefinately, like an old Hanna Barbera cartoon.

The conceit of retelling the most tragic part of The Empire Strikes Back using cheap cartoon mechanics was, to us at least, inherently hilarious. Plus, to the benefit of the finished film, working in this way kept the camera 'moving'.

The picture above illustrates the primary complication with shooting any lego animation, which is the enormity of the camera in relation to the 'actors'. In many cases the minifigs had to be positioned physically inside the hood of the camera, just to get a close-up. We've since switched to digital stills cameras, but its done little to resolve the issue.

Opposite is a capture from the camera, as it appeared before we cropped the shot to widescreen. This we did for reasons of authenticity, and because it looks better. Lego minifigs are short and rotund, so they well suit extremely wide compositions.

The shots were captured straight into the computer from the camera, and each one was 'frame blended' together from several identical frames, to reduce video grain.

Finally, we've compiled some footage from the studio shoot into a short making-of feature. You can watch the Youtube version below, or click here for a better quality MP4.

Coco Pops Commercial

The Coco Pops commercial I directed for Tandem Films is now airing nationally across Britain, with theatrical showings and other UK territories expected to follow soon. Coco Pops, for the benefit of our readers in the colonies, is the popular Kellogg's breakfast serial better known to you as Cocoa Krispies.

You can watch it online here.

I should clarify that the spot was produced by Tandem for Leo Burnett, and is not a SYF production - though SYFs own Tim Drage, and Spider-Man veteran animator Tom Bevan were both involved at various points. And of course I directed it, so I get to write about it on this blog.

The concept for the piece came from Leo Burnett, with the production teams brief being to realise it using stop-motion - or using techniques that look like stop-motion. I must admit, I never thought I would be called upon to animate anything physicaly smaller than a lego man, but coco pops certainly fit that bill (stop-motion mitochondria next I guess). Further to which, the story called for said pops to be in mid-air half the time. For a stop-motion animator, about the only thing that the brief left out, was if the coco pops had to be on fire.

The lazy solution would have been to do the whole thing CG, but making a film using only one technology, is for little babies and Hollywood. Instead, we took the Heath Robinson approach, and decided to tell the story using just about every practical animation technique available - whichever best suited each effect - all the while retaining that desired stop-motion aesthetic.

In the course of the thirty seconds you can see stop-motion, CG, live action, 2D traditional, rotoscoping, replacement model, photosonics, slow-motion and practical effects work, plus some techniques that there aren't even proper names for. For now, I'm not going to spoil the magic by telling you what shot uses what technique - but what I will say is that effects you think were done one way, were almost certainly done another...

Cosmic Adventure.

In this animation game, you can spend a lot of energy pitching for projects that as often as not don't come to anything. But sometimes you at least walk away with a new piece of artwork that you probably wouldn't have bothered to do otherwise. Below is an example of such.

650,000 People Can't be Wrong.

Well, they probably can. But they aren't.

Last month I was talking about Youtube and the relative difficulty for independent film makers to tell how many viewers they are really getting there, because of the profusion of multiple uploads that popular titles seem to receive. Well, inspired by a sudden spike on one of our own uploads I decided to take the time to work it out, and it proved a fascinating anthropological study.

Calculating your hits on Youtube is difficult, because often the numbers shown in a search listing are cached from some time back, and clicking through to the link can reveal that a lot more people have actually viewed said file since. Also, it depends on the search terms you use. I tried to enter every likely word combination I could think of, but you still can't account for people who have uploaded your movie under completely the wrong name, entered it in another language or alphabet, or deviously claimed it as their own work. Taking these factors into consideration, the figures produced below can be seen as not only highly approximate, but as fairly low estimates.

Finally, I know for a fact that almost all of these views have been in the last six months, because I purged Youtube of dodgy pirate copies before that date - something you could realistically do back then, but couldn't possibly manage now. However, I suspect that the vast majority have been in the last two to three months, as I distinctively recall being disappointed by the casual glance I took at our viewing figures back then. I can only attribute this to what has been the 'year of Youtube' and as a side effect of the journey towards 'web 2.0'.

So anyways. Way in the lead is that which we lovingly refer to in-house as The Python Film with a reputable 650,000+ (six hundred, fifty thousand). Not bad for a film that has been active online for more than five years and doesn't even have a proper title.

Following suit is the ever popular Spider-Man: The Peril of Doc Ock, with something in excess of 104,000 (one hundred, four thousand). Spidey still isn't getting quite the same viewing figures as Python (on Youtube anyway) but it has by far the greatest number of 'bootleg' copies.

After that is The Han Solo Affair with a reputable 23,000 (twenty three thousand). I got bored of counting them all after that.

As I said last month however, the true marker of success on this crazy interweb of ours, is to find out that a 12 year old boy in Mexico has painstakingly created a stop-motion fan sequel to one of your films. Well Poncho, who bought us this Doc Ock sequel/remake has done it again with Night at the Graveyard - a sequel of sorts to our earliest bricksploitation film All of the Dead. Now that's love.