Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Student Showcase: Jack Strood introduces "A Spring in her Step"

Jack Strood, one of our final year animation student at Bucks, presents "A Spring in her Step", a short animated film about a girl who wins a dance competition only to find that her celebration is short-lived, as she is faced with a demanding life challenge. The film combines stop-motion techniques with 2D animation, to create a unique blend of different styles. We asked Jack to tell us about the film and how he put it all together.

Bucks: What is your film about? 

Jack: "A Spring in her Step" is a stop motion short film: When a girl wins a dance competition, her celebration is short-lived - with the arrival of another demanding life challenge. 

Bucks: What inspired you to make it? 

I chose stop motion animation as a style, as I did not gel well with computer animation. In my dissertation, I described the main styles of animation - and 3-D CGI was just one of them. The one animation that inspired me through the course of the project was the classic TV series Paddington Bear. This series of short animations that came out in the 1980s echoed my own personal interests really well. 

My own academic background is more of an art, sculpture, media and film setting, so Paddington Bear’s style of drawn background with real puppet animation stood out as a supreme highlight to me. To see characters and sets created with known materials that anybody can relate with, that move and tell a story; it’s the closest thing to magic that I know. I feel that the audience may have ‘CGI fatigue’ nowadays, so watching real-life, psychical objects animate, (hopefully) will resonate more with the audience. They know, almost instinctively, how much work and time it took to sculpt each part.

Set from "A Spring in her step"

Bucks: What were the biggest challenges you faced along the way? 

Jack: The lowest point of this year-long project was when I came close to a breakdown at the end of my second Negotiated Project at Bucks. My problems began when I could not get Laura (the girl character) to form correctly, and her clothes began to unstitch in front of my eyes - all after five hours of hard work. Nothing was going right; I did not have any proper animation tests, and only a half-attempt at a set. Worse, I was severely behind schedule. I travelled home and worked on a monumental catch-up session that lasted a solid fortnight. I started a blog on blogger ( to post everyday for motivation, morale and time management - and I haven’t looked back since. 

I found myself saying ‘What should this look like?’, ‘How is this going to stand up?’ and my personal favourite ‘Why the HELL have I chosen stop motion?!’ The main decisions were ones were that I felt like I had to re-visit a certain area again, as the result previously didn’t quite cut the mustard. 

I had to re-visit the animatic three times to get the timing right and all of the shots correct, as this was a visual representation of the script - and the backbone of any animation. Another case in point is that I had to re-visit Laura’s whole character design from the ground up. Her face and head had to be re-worked, as it looked too plain and didn’t fit, but I soon realised that you could get more out of a wire-lined fabric dress than a heavy knitted one. Finally I had to re-build the camera slider rig as the older wooden one did not have enough stability.

Bucks: What advice would you give to any student at Bucks making a short film? 

Jack: Don’t avoid the obvious, indulge your obsessions and love what you’re doing. The tutors at Bucks are outstandingly supportive and even if they reply with harsh criticism, it means that they know you can take it - and that they believe there is great potential in you as a student and film-maker. 

There was a phrase that I used for self moral support throughout the course of this project: “When everything feels like an uphill struggle, just think of the view from the top.” I found this very supportive, as on every painful step of the project, I had to overcome my initial frustration barrier of plainly not knowing anything about the sub-topic I jumped into. 

Bucks:  What projects can we look forward to in future? 

Jack: An on-going personal project is self-betterment. When I leave university, I will be faced with the task of finding an appropriate job in animation. This will be my next project, as I will dedicate all of my time building up my portfolio, contacting studios and taking any unpaid work experience places out there just to build up contacts. Then, and only then, will there be a solid animation project on the cards, I wouldn’t like to lose momentum with my career.

 (Editor's Note: For more impressive work done by our students and recent graduates here at Bucks, check out SuperFergy in 3D by Anton Alfy, see the work of Jens KopkeBen Gray's Moonbeam, and the architectural visualisations of Sabah Masood and Anton Alfimenko. Also take a look at the work of Andy Thomas here, see our latest commercial project for Rocketseed, our short film done for a global aid agency, and take a look at the excellent work of designer Monika Dzikowicz, architectural visualisation specialist Krsytof Michalski, Alex Whitfield and the 3D artwork of Mike Swan. And don't forget to see the simulation work of our students done in RealFlow. To see our student demo reel, click here.)


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