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SCT Collaboration: In Blue

Updated: Apr 21, 2021

For our first brief on the MA we were asked to produce an animation for SCT, a wonderful charity that helps with 'rebuilding lives affected by addiction and homeless', through building confidence, community and skills.

Four other students (Alejandro Martínez, Sara Massieu, Taddea Tinchon, and Tamasin Warnock) and I quickly formed a collaborative group and started bouncing our initial ideas off one another.

Considering the sensitive nature of the project, we believed it was important to platform the personal experiences of someone receiving help from SCT, hopefully through animating a voiceover.

After contacting Flora at SCT's Communications to see if she knew anyone who would feel comfortable to do so, we received a poem written and voiced by someone in recovery at SCT.


Flash forward to completing the animation to accompany this poem, we sadly received news that this person had withdrawn their consent of the use of their name, voice and poem. This led to a hectic couple of days, during which we wrote a new poem, taking inspiration from both their poignant words and research on the wonderful work that SCT does, in order to still fit the animation we had made. By some stroke of luck, we found someone to voice the poem too, Theo Lancaster. After 2 days we had a new final product, which we sent off to SCT. It turned they really liked it and were grateful we could turn it around so late in the day!


This blog post will document our process however, it will respect this withdrawal of consent and the animatics will be muted.


New poem


Scene 1 (Sara)

Recovery isn’t easy, I’m trapped inside my head

Going over and over all the things that I dread

Each day like a battle, so alone it can feel

But through SCT I’m beginning to heal


Scene 2 (Taddea)

To use my own hands and to plant a new seed

Helping me grow in the life that I lead

I’ve found my own way, I now have a home

I met friends on my journey, I’m no longer alone


Scene 3 (Kate)

Here's to new beginnings, a fresh coat of paint

To learning new skills, and making a change

The noise of the world slowly fading away

I’ve found my own garden, a place I can stay


Scene 4 (Kate)

The friends that I've made, though far, feel near

Through ups and downs they've always been here

Thank you to those that make sure to check in,

For the texts and calls that spark hope from within

Speaking with my sponsor, helps me to find peace

And allows me the time and the space to release


Scene 5 (Tam)

Thank you to my family, you’ve shown me what way’s up,

You stuck by me through it all and helped me not give up

Together as a team, I find the strength to fight

I know that with each other, it will be alright

In you I’ve found a family on whom I can depend

These memories, I will treasure: such friendships never end


Scene 6 (Alejandro)

In silence I remember darker days gone by,

And who I was before those grey clouds filled the sky

I reconnect with what I’ve lost, now life is not as tough

With faith and you as guidance, I know I’m strong enough


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See below for the project process



We divided the stanzas between us, basing this on the stanzas that we felt most connected to and those that gave us evocative imagery to work with.

I started brainstorming and made a quick animatic of what my chosen stanzas could entail:




Further storyboarding
















Merging ideas in collaboration



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Style


In early meetings, we quickly decided on the style we wanted to emulate, a few scenes seen below:

https://www.depict.org/2020/blue/?category_request=2020

Blue, by Paulina Jaklik




We also found inspiration in The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse, by Charlie Mackesy




Applying style and timing to the animatic




Stills





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More accurate rendering and fine-tuning the style






It was decided that the brush I had used and its application was the most stylistically similar to our references. We decided to go with a deep blue brush so as to lift the animation and refer back to the blue-based branding of SCT.


- Kyle's Inkbox - Fountania Variant 2

- 15px

- 0B0B32


In order to align all our work and create an animation that had stylistic continuity, I decided to smooth out my lines slightly. We wanted to keep the variation in brush thickness and the slight wobble, but we needed the form in each frame to follow the same basic framework. The head would have to be more proportionate between frames, in part to also reduce the intensity of the wobble. This result was a more uniform head with targeted and precise shading:










This GIF proved useful for the ear shots!









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Colour

Following our stylistic inspiration, we went through each scene to decide what elements should have colour. We decided to use one of SCT's core colours in their palette as the accent colour, to reflect SCT's involvement in the person's narrative and recovery. We knew immediately that the bird in Scene 3 should be in blue, symbolising SCT, who sits on the figure's shoulder and offers kindness and guidance. In my scenes, we decided that blue should feature in:

- the painting (emulate the paint)

- the trees (SCT's involvement in a place of calm and restoration)

- the bird (SCT's guidance)

- the text messages (SCT offers a community that those in recovery are so thankful for)

Brush:

- Kyle's Real Watercolour Soft Irregular Wash Variant

- Use the Alcohol Brush for any texture wanted

- Various sizes (predominantly 100px, 50px and 20px, personally, at 80% opacity)

- SCT light blue: 00B6EF


For my sequence, the frame rate of the watercolour ranged between 2s, to match the line frame rate, and 4s on boils.






Test with the watercolour and alcohol brush






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After a lot of sleep-deprived nights, we finished our first animation draft!


When all our animations were finalised, they were imported into Premiere Pro and matched up to the voiceover, adding the credits and 1 second black frames at the beginning and end

The sound effect/foley tracks were added in After Effects, which was a great addition and made the animation a more immersive experience.


These are my two scenes from the first draft:



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After receiving some lovely comments from Flora and her team on our first draft, we began making improvements for the final hand-in. This included some minor animation edits (masking, smoothening the morphing, and adding shading) as well as quite big changes to the soundtrack and credits, opting for more ambient sounds of city gardens and quiet nights, as well as appropriate foley that could either sit upon this or bridge these now flowing audio files. We decided to extend the deep-blue watercolour sky background of the final scene, into the credits so they would sit within this sky instead of being against a white background. This meant the poem would end with "the end of the day", a more calm and reflective conclusion to the animation, paralleled with the poem's reflective final stanza. The newly-written poem was then recorded, voiced by Theo Lancaster, to match the pacing of the animation.


Below is the final outcome of the collaborative project, In Blue:



Description


The animation follows the story of a man recovering from addiction, fighting against the demons in his head. With the help of a Trust, he finds a new home and friends, he reconnects family ties and begins to feel less alone. The demons in his head are replaced by the peace of his garden and calls with his sponsor. He is finally able to feel good about himself and has a chance to move on.


Synopsis


‘In Blue' is a digital 2D animation, created by five (MA) Animation students at UAL, in collaboration with SCT, a charity based in East London that helps those affected by homelessness and addiction. Inspired by a poem written by a man in recovery at SCT, the 2:08-long animation details the conflicts faced and the progress made in recovery through both literal and metaphoric representations. These scenes are fluid, morphing from one to the other, and guiding the viewer between each stanza. With it’s ever-moving dark inky lines and accents of blue watercolour, the animation has character and a richness that reflects the rawness of the poem and the positive changes that SCT can instil. The animation is accompanied with a voice-over, by Theo Lancaster, and is supported with subtle sound effects, transforming it into a more immersive and accessible experience.


Director's Statement


For the first brief of the MA, we produced a collaborative animation for SCT, a wonderful charity ‘rebuilding lives affected by addiction and homeless’, through building confidence, community and skills.

Four other students and I formed a team quickly after finding we had similar ideas for the narrative. Considering the sensitive nature of the project, we believed it was important to platform the personal experiences of someone receiving help from SCT.


We were stylistically inspired by two key sources: Blue, by Paulina Jaklik, and The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse, by Charlie Mackesy. It was important for us to emulate an evocative hand-drawn quality in the animation, to communicate the richness of the poem. The watercolour accents are bright blue, a core colour in the SCT colour palette, which we believe creates continuity between SCT, the poem and our animation.


Important to me was creating a visually interesting animation that represented the experiences the poem described in an organic and fluid motion, to not only communicate the passing of time but also reflect the continued perseverance of those in recovery. I wanted to capture the sincerity in the poem, to reflect the emotion in its words and do justice to those experiencing the difficulties faced in recovery.



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Submission to the Sehsüchte International Student Film Festival


Poster and banner by Sara Massieu







The inclusion of both light and dark backgrounds in our advertising ties the two colour schemes together and hints at the transition from day to night, light to dark, beginning and conclusion, in our animation, and in the poem. The similarity in the advertising lies in the inclusion of the head, an indicator that a large part of recovery is in the change of mindset and the growth of self-worth. The poster symbolises the feeling of being trapped inside your own head, the speaker's mindset at the beginning of recovery, battling with his various obstacles. The banner indicates the speaker's next step in his journey of recovery: the flourishing of his mind as he slowly becomes the person that he wants to be, with the help of SCT.



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This was a really fun and enjoyable project to be involved in, especially as I was helping to make a final product for such an important charity, with talented collaborators who shared the passion and empathy to do so!

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