Friday, 21 October 2011

Unit 1 Presentation

Unit 1 Presentation

Final Design

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Shapeshifters Film Review 7: Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan (2010)

Fig. 1. Black Swan Poster

Swan Lake can be called an artistic film, it uses a large array of visual techniques, sometimes obvious and sometimes subtle, to help create an atmosphere of a psychological thriller. This atmosphere helps set the plot that follows the life struggle of a young dancer Nina (Natalie Portman) as she works her way to become a top ballerina while living at home with her mother. Straight away as the film starts she is having a dream about dancing in Swan Lake as the leading dancer, one of the most prestigious positions within dancing and her ultimate goal.

“The screenplay, by Mark Heyman, AndrĂ©s Heinz and John McLaughlin, invites pop-psychological interpretations about women who self-mutilate while striving for their perfect selves, a description that seems to fit Nina.” (Dargis, 2010)

The film is filled with tense scenes and psychological trips that keep you on your toes. Amongst the techniques helping create the effect of a thriller is the colour palette which consists of mainly grey tones. The theme of Swan Lake is the innocent sister is white and pure while the evil sister is black; the film picks up on this and uses it throughout the film keeping everything a monotone colour, even Nina wearing at least one piece of white as a sign of innocence. However the film breaks the colour scheme at some points but on purpose, like Nina’s room which is a horrible pink colour representing the ugliness of her relationship with her mother. Another key colour choice is the lipstick she steals from the dressing room; that intense red colour compared to the rest of the grey tone film can be symbolic for her sexual curiosity of which she’s never had experience in.

Another key technique building up for the psychological feel is the shoulder cam. It traps us within the characters point of view, not allowing us to look around and suffocating us. This is really effective in trapping the viewer with the characters psyche and can be seen many times through the film where the back of the characters head is only visible with a portion a view.

“-particularly in cinematographer Matthew Libatique's brilliant continuous shot in which Nina makes out with a random guy in a club, then wakes up to what she's doing and, freaked out, blunders through murky winding corridors and out into the night air – there seems no difference between inside and outside. Everywhere is claustrophobic.” (Bradshaw, 2011)

One more main technique and is the most crucial is the mirror. It’s a key point in expressing Nina’s every growing “evil” persona like the evil sister in Swan Lake. Nina’s battle with her doppelganger is subtle at first but it escalates towards the end of the movie to the point where her reflections are moving on their own. The final moment of the mirrors is when she stabs Lily (her doppelganger) with a shard a mirror in the stomach, this is symbolising the moment she embraces the evil within because in reality she stabs herself.
Fig. 2. Mirrors

“The director’s use of mirrors and reflections in numerous scenes are a constant reminder of Nina’s altered perception of reality. Mirrors in the movie are often misleading and Nina’s reflections seem to have a “life of their own”. As Nina becomes haunted by the Black Swan, this alternate persona takes a life of its own and acts outside of Nina’s conscious control.” (Vigilant Citizen, 2011)

The true meaning behind the film is chasing perfection no matter what the cost, even if it means embracing evil or becoming a monster.
Fig. 3. Black Swan

Dargis, M. (2010) The New York Times At: (Accessed on: 20.10.11)

Bradshaw, P. (2011) The Guardian At: (Accessed on: 20.10.11)

Illustration List
Fig. 1. Aronofsky, Darren (2010) Black Swan Poster At: (Accessed on: 20.10.11)

Fig. 2. Mirrors (2010) From: Black Swan Directed by: Darren Aronofsky [film still] USA: Fox Searchlight Pictures At: (Accessed on: 20.10.11)
Fig. 3. Black Swan (2010) From: Black Swan Directed by: Darren Aronofsky [film still] USA: Fox Searchlight Pictures At: (Accessed on: 20.10.11)

Shapeshifters Film Review 6: Vincenzo Natali’s Splice (2009)

 Fig. 1. Splice Poster
Vincenzo Natali’s Splice contains a whole range of different themes in a film that is in itself about a controversial topic, playing god with science. Splice is about a couple (Clive and Elsa) who are quite capable genetic scientists working at a biotech laboratory that are trying to change the world by using genetic splicing techniques. Their first creation is a mixture of many animals that generally looks like a blobby fat worm but whose cells can create a new strain of livestock feed. This however doesn’t satisfy their scientific hunger and they soon turn to human DNA splicing which is on the illegal agenda. This film explores themes of morality, curiosity, abortion, parenting, sexual desire, and the general issue of humanism.

“Splice is as much of a cautionary tale about people having kids before they're ready as it is a time-worn tale of scientists playing God.” (Vejvoda, 2010)
 Fig. 2. Elsa Holding Dren

Even though the film is about this amazing feat of scientific knowledge and creation giving birth to a hybrid spliced human that’s almost alien, the underlying plot is still as emotionally human as you can get. It focuses on the mother-daughter relationship between Dren and Elsa, whose past is as troubling as the ethics behind the whole experiment.

“She has absolutely zero interest in children, and this is partly due to the way that her own mother treated her on the creepy old farmstead; nothing is made absolutely clear, though obviously Elsa's neat, techno-urban childless life is deliberately the farthest thing imaginable from the ugly, painful chaos of her rural upbringing.” (Bradshaw, 2010)

Since Elsa’s past with her mother left her a bit psychologically scarred forces her to be very forceful in life and determined to the point of breaking boundaries. She doesn’t want kids but her desire to create this new being is so strong it can be suggested that on a subconscious level she wants to have a child; but not out of maternal instinct but more out of the want for revenge, to be better than her mother. Also the addition of Clive into the mix complicates matters of the family, at first he is completely against the birth of Dren even wanting her to be aborted but later as she grows he becomes more fond of her while it’s the exact opposite for Elsa who becomes cold and strict with Dren. This can be a sign of sexual desire and jealousy amongst the three as it evolves into a mixed genre of love and science. Finally Clive realises that Dren is no mere hybrid from an anonymous woman’s DNA but from Elsa herself.
 Fig. 3. The Dance

“Still, for Elsa, Dren is no mere experiment: she’s a test-tube baby, one that comes with the emotional and psychological weight of an in-utero conception. And the bigger Dren gets — she soon grows arms that hug Elsa tight — the deeper the bond between the two and the greater the trouble for Elsa and Clive.” (Dargis, 2010)

In conclusion the film pushes the boundaries of parenting and science in a new way that’s disturbing but interesting nonetheless. There’s a lot to carry away after watching Splice with mixed thoughts, especially after you see Elsa pregnant with the baby of the Dren-turned-man hybrid.
 Fig. 4. Oh no, she is a man

Vejvoda, J. (2010) IGN Movies At: (Accessed on: 20.10.11)

Bradshaw, P. (2010) The Guardian At: (Accessed on: 20.10.11)

Dargis, M. (2010) The New York Times At: (Accessed on: 20.10.11)

Illustration List
Fig. 1. Natali, Vincenzo (2009) Splice Poster At: (Accessed on: 20.10.11)

Fig. 2. Elsa Holding Dren (2009) From: Splice Directed by: Vincenzo Natali [film still] Canada: Gaumont At: (Accessed on: 20.10.11)

Fig. 3. The Dance (2009) From: Splice Directed by: Vincenzo Natali [film still] Canada: Gaumont At: (Accessed on: 20.10.11)

Fig. 4. Oh no, she is a man (2009) From: Splice Directed by: Vincenzo Natali [film still] Canada: Gaumont At: (Accessed on: 20.10.11)

Maya: Z-Depth

Made three renders in maya, a normal, ambient occlusion and a z-depth.
Took them into photoshop to combine them using the ambient as an overlay and the z-depth an an alpha channel.
Then adding a blur at the end to make the background blur and the foreground crisp.

Maya: Materials

Modifying blinn's and a few lambert textures through the attributes window to attain certain results.

hidden source glow

Maya: Stylistic Lighting

Introduced to using layers to easily turn lights on and off

Missing the morning however because something strange happened to that file, non-fixable.

Maya: Lighting

Using the attributes editor to change settings on lights and creating different effects
-Breaking light links to affect how the light works

Maya: Magnifying Glass & Pen

Followed the maya tutorials blog and finally uploading work.
-Polygon manipulation
-Using basic deformer for both the handle and pen
-Assigning materials
-A bit of tinkering with lighting

Shapeshifters Film Review 5: David Lynch’s The Elephant Man (1980)

Fig. 1. The Elephant Man Poster

The Elephant Man directed by David Lynch is based on a true story about a man called Joseph Merrick (John in The Elephant Man) whose extreme physical deformities caused him to live an abnormal life. This film encompasses his later life when he encounters Dr. Treves played by Anthony Hopkins who attempts to “save” Merrick. Set in the late 19th century in a London that’s being changed by the Industrial Revolution, the film focuses on the social barrier that stops Merrick from becoming a normal member of society and that instead treats him as a freak. The social barrier is not only just limited to Merrick’s deformity but it’s also humanities lack to look past physical features of a person to see what they’re really worth from their actions,

“But he’s not one to pity himself, ask pity from others or be mistaken as brave, he’s just an iron will with a thirst for life who’d rather spend his time appreciating the gift horse in front of him rather than dwell on the hardships he’s had to endure. It’s a rare mind set to find from anyone, but the challenge with Merrick is being able to see it.” (Aiden R., 2011)
Fig. 2. Freak Show

Fig. 3. Mrs. Kendal

Only a handful of people in the film are able to see what a good man Merrick actually is but for the most part the commoners are shown gawking at him at the circus as part of a freak show. His deformity is an attraction for people, something to be disgusted by for amusement; no one ever tried to treat him as a human being. That’s where Dr. Treves comes in to view Merrick at the freak show, immediately being struck with pity and compassion, even to the point of shedding tears. Shortly after Treves takes Merrick off the hands of his “owner”; this can be seen as an act of kindness as he just wants to free him from the claws of the people that consider him a freak. This marked the beginning of hope for Merrick; someone finally giving him a chance to be viewed as a human.

“Therefore, he ends up working his way into the upper-class of society, receiving and entertaining many rich and refined visitors in his hospital room. But he still hasn’t escaped the freak show nature of these visits. It becomes clear that people aren’t visiting him out of any real interest for who he is, but that same morbid fascination that the lowest class of society exemplified.” (Ewing, 2010)
Fig. 4. Gentleman

However Dr. Treves intentions seem to falter as he tries to help Merrick join society; he means good but he eventually sees his mistake. First it was commoners staring at him in a freak show but then it was the upper class visiting him for tea in his room; different surroundings and people but still the same attraction. This shows a deep cruel nature in people; no matter if you’re a commoner or upper class you’re still the same if can’t look past a persons’ looks and into their heart whereas Merrick sees people as they truly are “That is the quality that illuminates this film and makes it far more fascinating than it would be were it merely a portrait of a dignified freak. Throughout the film one longs for an explosion. That it never comes is more terrifying, I think, than John Merrick's acceptance of the values of others is inspiring.” (Canby, 1980)

Aiden R. (2011) Cut the Crap Movie Reviews (Accessed on: 19.10.11)

Ewing, B. (2010) Cinema Sights (Accessed on: 19.10.11)

Illustration List
Fig. 1. Lynch, David (1980) The Elephant Man Poster At: (Accessed on: 19.10.11)

Fig. 2. Freak Show (1980) From: The Elephant Man Directed by: David Lynch [film still] USA: Brooksfilms At: (Accessed on: 19.10.11)

Fig. 3. Mrs. Kendal (1980) From: The Elephant Man Directed by: David Lynch [film still] USA: Brooksfilms At: (Accessed on: 19.10.11)
Fig. 4. Gentleman (1980) From: The Elephant Man Directed by: David Lynch [film still] USA: Brooksfilms At: (Accessed on: 19.10.11)

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Shapeshifters Film Review 4: Neil Jordan’s Company of Wolves (1984)

Fig. 1. The Company of Wolves Poster
            Neil Jordan’s The Company of Wolves is a gothic adaptation of the fairy tale ‘Red Riding Hood’, exploring more darker themes of its usually gentler retelling. Jordan’s version moves away from the overused “happy ever-after” storyline in a fairy tale and tries to evoke something more sinister within us and almost suffocate us to a point of fear and enticement. An example of this would be the colour scheme and set design, bringing together dark grey and black gloomy colours within a cramped set trapping us while Rosaleens’ red cloak frees us from this to the point where we want to see it more, almost desire it.
Fig. 2. Forest Scene

Along with the set and cloak the film is also rich with symbolism used to reinforce the nightmare effect on the audience and represent the step into maturity and the darkness that accompanies it. When Rosaleen walks into the forest dark figures lurk in the shadows, toads start appearing and snakes slither around the roots of trees. This symbolism creates an atmosphere unlike the fairy tale; “It is not a children's film and it is not an exploitation film; it is a disturbing and stylish attempt to collect some of the nightmares that lie beneath the surface of ‘Little Red Riding Hood.’” (Ebert, 1985)

Fig. 3. Nest Scene

Behind the all the symbolism and werewolves however lies a deeper theme, The Company of Wolves explores the journey of a young girl who ventures into unknown territory fraught with unpleasant surprises; a journey in which she will lose her innocence, essentially entering the world of maturity. The depiction of the werewolf is merely a metaphor for men unleashing their carnal desire for sexual lust, and Rosaleen becomes entangled in this web of emotional discovery;
“The sexual and womanly innuendos suggested by the Little Red Riding Hood tale are all here; from wolves and their ‘call of nature’ to Rosaleen’s first discovery of a mirror, lipstick, and eggs that hatch into baby dolls. Is Little Red Riding Hood merely a tale warning one not to talk to strangers or stray from the trusted and safe path- or is it a darker analysis of the predatory nature of man’s carnal desires for girls as they menstruate and grow into womanhood?” (Battlestella, 2009).
Fig. 4. Stranger in the Woods

Rosaleen’s road to womanhood is met with a great change to her inner self at the end of the film when she turns into a wolf herself and runs away with the pack. This scene is the final arriving point of maturity and it’s the culmination of all the small experiences that she had to go through to get here, “This Red Riding Hood, sharing a single-room cabin with her mother and father, witnesses what in analysis is usually called 'the primal scene.' The next morning she asks her mother if her father had hurt her. Answers Mother, 'If there's a beast in men, it meets its match in women, too.'” (Canby, 1985). The mothers’ quote summarizes the films’ idea that women can be animals on the inside as well, that once they reach maturity they lose a bit of their innocence and can be just as animalistic as men.
Fig. 5. Rosaleen and the Wolf

Ebert, R. (1985) (Accessed on: 16.10.11)

Battlestella, K. (2009) I Think, Therefore I Review. (Accessed on: 16.10.11)

Canby, V. (1985) The New York Times (Accessed on: 16.10.11)

Illustration List
Fig. 1. Jordan, Neil (1984) The Company of Wolves Poster At: (Accessed on: 16.10.11)

Fig. 2. Forest Scene (1984) From: The Company of Wolves Directed by: Neil Jordan [film still] UK: ITC, Palace Pictures At: (Accessed on: 16.10.11)

Fig. 3. Nest Scene (1984) From: The Company of Wolves Directed by: Neil Jordan [film still] UK: ITC, Palace Pictures At: (Accessed on: 16.10.11)

Fig. 4. Stranger in the Woods (1984) From: The Company of Wolves Directed by: Neil Jordan [film still] UK: ITC, Palace Pictures At: (Accessed on: 16.10.11)
Fig. 5. Rosaleen and the Wolf (1984) From: The Company of Wolves Directed by: Neil Jordan [film still] UK: ITC, Palace Pictures At: (Accessed on: 16.10.11)