Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Bradford Animation Festival

BAF is just around the corner and some of my lecturers have put together a competition for two winners to go to BAF with the full tickets. We need to make a 7 second Vine for them (animated, obviously).
I really want to go to BAF so will definitely be entering that! For my piece, I'm thinking an animated animal, like a cat!
I do love cats... Here's the Tipp himself!

So I reference drew this chap out in Flash:

Coloured version

In a field!

Saturday, 18 October 2014

MOTION GRAPHICS PROJECT - Research into Motion Graphics

WHAT IS "MOTION GRAPHICS?"

I made no mystery of not knowing just what counts as Motion Graphics. I just think it's a stupid term, because animation is in a sense Motion Graphics. They are images (or graphics) that move (motion). In the same way VFX are Motion Graphics. You can be adding things to a scene that were not there originally, or emphasising them in ways that were not possible in the original shoot. More often than not, through a form of animation. Look at Corridor Digital's Dubstep Guns: When they fire and the visual representation of  the music is emitted, a series of lines are wrapped around and animated to pulse and grow using an key framed Start/End percentage. To me, that is Motion Graphics. To others, it's VFX.
This made my progression through the early stages of the project very slow and laborious, as I wasn't sure what actually constituted Motion Graphics, as it draws from multiple areas, but is a blurry line at the edge of just being one of the individual pieces.
I was told, "Add text, so it is definitely Motion Graphics," so I've done that. I'm also using a lot of Parallax motion, as that too is safely Motion Graphics. I will also incorporate Rotoscoped segments (1 of them, due to timing), because as I said above, animation is a form of Motion Graphics and vice versa.


  1. Motion graphics are graphics that use video footage and/or animation technology to create the illusion of motion or rotation, and are usually combined with audio for use in multimedia projects.
Or to put it another way...
http://vimeo.com/43976740



Examples:
Opening sequence to Right At Your Door (Lionsgate, 2006)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fhow0P3Yxbw

I like this opening sequence. At the start, the words just seem to be randomly aligning themselves in the frame, but the final reveal shows a street plan in LA, where the film is set.

007: Casino Royale opening (Columbia Pictures, 2006)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eje28TK4D00

Hugely imaginative, opening with a Live Action sequence, the iconic down the barrel shot, then the fantastical animated sequence bringing in the intricate details found on playing cards and turning them into interactive elements in the piece. The suits being used as bullets and knives, the patterns found on the face cards becoming almost like snakes. And Chris Cornell doing the theme is always a winner.

Mad Men intro (AMC, 2007)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eQdihTFaKj8

The bold, contrasting colours of the falling man and again at the end, with Don Draper sat on a sofa with a cigar. That imagery sticks with me, especially when placed on top of the 50s style advertising projected on the buildings as he falls. Very simple, but very powerful in my eyes.

Panic Room Opening sequence (Columbia Pictures, 2002)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=crXK8kF1Ing

Not all sequences need to be running and gunning. This simple intro to Panic Room is simple text on film. It does remind me a lot of the Element 3D Metropolitan trailer from Video Colpilot, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cC7fCpX9fZU

Almost: Round 3 - Almost Skateboarding Video (Whyte House Productions, 2004)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4y_0atFblo

One of my favourite skate videos with some of my favourite skaters! The intro to Almost Round 3 blew my mind when I first saw it. I had been animating on Flash for a couple years by this point and set about recreating the intro in Flash (as it was actually made in Flash originally). My Flash skills improved a lot through this!

The Walking Dead intro (AMC, 2010)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NUiP6JstO9U

Above link shows a the intros to Seasons 1 through 3 (2010-2013)
The Walking Dead uses a lot of Parallax in it's intros.

InFamous -PS3 (Sucker Punch, 2009)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5Te2CrQsjE
InFamous intro video.
A 2D comic style added into 3D, added parallax. I've always loved this effect.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WplrwsW0UzE
A behind the scenes look at how they made the comic style cutscenes.

Dubstep Guns (Corridor Digital, 2011)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hDlif8Km4S4
I will fight you if you say the emission from the guns are not Motion Graphics. They are.

25 Amazing Motion Graphics Animations and Videos
http://creativeoverflow.net/25-amazing-motion-graphics-animationsvideos/
I love the Cartoon Network one. That is similar to what I want to achieve.

Pacific Rim Making Of
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7SIxnzhw29Q
It even calls them Motion Graphics, where some would say VFX. Showing that not only are Motion Graphics and animation reflecting forms of each other, but the same is for VFX.

Second Year Graphic Design Student - Sindre Dahl
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eIQviREC1QU
A Scandinavian student who was tasked with creating an opening for a fictional TV show.

Lichtspiel Opus I (Walther Ruttmann, 1921)
http://youtu.be/aHZdDmYFZN0
Coloured shapes moving to music

An Optical Poem (Oskar Fischinger, 1938)
http://youtu.be/they7m6YePo
Coloured shapes moving to music

Rhythmus 21 (Hans Richter, 1921)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b972EQOOEoY
Coloured shapes moving to music

Mirror's Edge Intro (DICE, 2009
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5UPi5uiKIls
Mirror's Edge is a beautiful game. The clean rendered environments make me think of running through a Motion Graphics set of a city. The intro itself, with the text would be regarded as Motion Graphics. There are amazing cut scenes that, although very simply done, are brilliant at conveying 3D space in 2D.

RESEARCH NOTE:
Researching for my Short Story project brought up a lot of Motion Graphics pieces for book advertising.

R.L. Stine Novel advert (Circle of Seven, 2012)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DwjODGS-gWY

Correen Callahan, Knight Avenged (Rasit Creations, 2014)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_KdxrTIIlU
A series of images that zoom in, with some text. Very basic looking.

Jennifer Lyon, The Plus One Chronicles (Rasit Creations, 2013)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CtZkekZUbo4&list=UUm6eiieeQ5Xw5DFsLkslkjg
Rasit Creations create their adverts the same way. Images with zooms and some text.

Dean Koontz, Deeply Odd (2013)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3uBDc2UPkGQ
Video with voiceover

Dean Koontz, 77 Shadow Street (2011)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8kKCo7jVO4w
Motion Graphics heavy work.
Sadly, I was unable to see who made these Dean Koontz videos. They didn't have their name on their videos and the Dean Koontz site doesn't advertise them.

Jo Nesbø, The Snowman (2011)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5t_8yJ6wY2c&spfreload=1
This is the US trailer for one of my favorite authors, Jo Nesbø. This trailer is a lot of video and VFX work, stunningly shot with a voice over

Jo Nesbø, The Redbreast (2007)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h3350u5ECL0
A Motion Graphic/3D sequence with some Live Action and voice over.

Lori Foster, Hard To Handle (Circle of Seven, 2007)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xto9cIb0dL4&list=PL653BEBCA056AB043
Using video from wrestling and 3D sequence (in the car) with some text.


Royalty Free music that can be used on any project:

Teknoaxe:- They create music that can be freely downloaded and used in projects, whether monetised or not.
They produce a range of music styles, but I feel a metal track would work best for my project.
**This track is Royalty Free and is free for anyone to use in YouTube videos or other projects, whether monetized or not.**
http://www.facebook.com/teknoaxe
Each video on Youtube holds these disclaimers, plus a link to download the track.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PdYpnhlSDA4 - Simple Metal
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZhXTACf03wU - Psycho Nu Metal
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lAIkfyE8tOA - Hyperbole

Smoking Rolo Sideshow:- My brother's friend's band. Originally thought of using a track from their second album, Rocket Silence, but I am leaning further towards the harder metal sound to link in with the mindless violence in my piece.

And of course, the greatest song in the world, Synthadel's Bergerac. My old band. We did a song called Bergerac which I also used in my L5 VFX work. Again, leaning towards a metal soundtrack, though.


STORYBOARDING
Using a technique from an animator friend on mine, Stephen Brooks, I created the storyboard on stickynotes in a process he also calls Stickyboarding. I like this technique because if I don't like how it looks, I can simply remove it and replace it (which happened a few times). From there, I scanned them onto my PC, then arranged them in Photoshop to just show the stickynotes, which I could then use to create the animatic.






ANIMATIC



ASSETS
I have created my own assets to use in the project. Key features that will work alongside the main graphics are noise/grunge graphics - pieces that will be placed on backgrounds to give them more interest, rather than just plain slates of colour. It also allows depth to them, which will help with the parallax . Ink splats will be used on the characters to "grime" them up a bit, but also be used in the place of blood. The images I have created can easily have their colours changed. I have only used these colours while working on them in Photoshop, removing them from their original photos. I've also used in for smoke-like, or blood effects. By dropping ink into water, the ink spreads out. I tried a few different coloured inks because, as a model painter, I know that the pigmentation of different inks vary, not just from brand to brand, but colour to colour. I find Yellow Inks tend to have thinner pigments meaning less dilution is required. Black ink is a very thick ink and requires a lot of dilution, or you risk using what is essentially watered down paint. Blue pigments in inks vary a lot, so I made a note to try this one out. The ink I used was quite thin, giving interesting results in the long term, but not as much on the initial drops. Red ink worked fantastically. It was just the right pigment thickness, giving a great result. For the final asset creations with the inks, I will be using both black and red inks as I found they gave the best results. Here I will be showing snippets of the videos I took of the ink. Note, the black ink test, I coloured in post, as you wouldn't see it on the background after it was keyed out.

Red Ink test - Colour has been boosted
Black Ink test - Colour changed in post. The thick ink gives a great effect

Blue ink test - Colour boosted. A thin ink, not really ideal for my use on this project.


For testing the ink in water, I made use of my green screen, daylight bulb (a must for painting) and ink. My camera was placed on a tripod. I also used White foamcore boards to reflect light.
The conditions I made these tests in are by no means good enough for final creations, so I would strongly advise against it. With the lack of studio lighting in my house, if I was to create the final assets at home, really I'd look at creating them on an overcast day. The light diffusing on the clouds theoretically would give a good lighting.

Ink splats, simply ink on foamcore (a sheet of foam with thin card on front and back faces), then photographed using the GH4, giving me RAW images which I can later edit in Photoshop. By varying the height at which the ink was dropped would give me different results, as would loading different amounts of ink on the brush. I also experimented with different sized brushes with different bristle types. Smaller drops were obtained from the Windsor & Newton Series 7 Kolinsky Sable brushes, Size 00 - some of the finest brushes made, as far as I'm concerned. Soft bristled brushes which held ink very well. Larger splats were from generic stiff bristled brushes, size 5. With these, I also tried with the unbristled end of the brushes to see if they gave different results. Those ones were small, rounder splats which weren't ideal for what I was looking for.






Taking the images into Photoshop, I coloured them just for ease of viewing on my end. The colours will be easy enough to change in After Effects when needed. The smaller, trail like splats could even be animated to progress through the image. Something I will keep in mind for the scene where the riot police are shooting the protesters.

Grunge it up!
Scrunching up a sheet of paper, then flattening it out makes for a decent grunge map. There are a few effects you can add to it to tie it together and use it a few times without it looking the same. Altering levels to either harden or soften the creases works well, or even adding a blur to it. I prefer to use Gaussian Blur for it.

How it looks on an image.

Generate noise on a square and you have a simple noise/grunge map

How it looks on an image.


Smoke is another asset I may want to think about creating. I can do this in Maya fairly easily. Last semester I had done it on a couple occasions successfully.


I made this last year as part of Animation & Simulation. Creating something similar, I could do. Removing the fire effect would be a matter of reducing the area the fuel burns. Alternatively, the ink in water can give a very nice smoke effect, too.

Particles could be a possible addition for sections and muzzle flashes, too. Muzzle flashes could be created in After Effects. During the Summer, I had worked on a couple tests for muzzle flashes thanks to Video CoPilot.

For this test shot, it uses a directional blur coming from the muzzle. Altering the shape to be like that of a "conventional" weapon, directional blurring could give very nice muzzle flashes for my Motion Graphics piece. A few different shapes shooting together would look pretty nice, I'd think!

ROTOSCOPE
A technique of taking footage and drawing over it. a-ha's video for Take On Me is one of the best known uses of Rotoscope.

ELEMENT 3D

I will be using Element 3D for two reasons in this piece. The 3D text and the 3D room. Element is a Video Copilot plugin that makes using 3D models in After Effects easy! Not only does it allow you to place OBJ files into the scene, you can texture it up using UVW maps and add HDRI images for environment reflections. This will mainly come into play on the text. Making a reflective Diffuse Map and making a simple pattern in Photoshop can garner good results.

COMIC ART
In a similar style to the InFamous cut scenes, I will be looking at comic art for the main part of the piece. 
I very much like the style of Charlie Adlard, a British comic artist best known for his work on 2000 AD's Judge Dredd and Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead.

Sadly, I know I wouldn't be able to replicate his style, but it is a big influence on mine.

An example of my drawing. Photoshop, Pen and Tablet.
I prefer drawing alone, then shading it rather than colouring, but this project will require colour. By muting the colours, though, I'll be able to make some stark contrasts to the backgrounds, keeping attention on the characters on screen.

The "Guy Ritchie" Effect
An effect I picked up from Film Riot. I love these guys' work. They started out just wanting to make films, but not having a budget, so figuring out what Hollywood did, but on a tiny, TINY budget. They are really close with their community, too, which shapes their video uploads, this technique, for example!
They refer to it as the Guy Ritchie effect, because it's an effect he uses a lot. I want to use it, as it would combine with the comic look very nicely!
I've done a test of the effect with my... *ahem* good friend Jean-Claude Van Damme. (Thanks to No Film School for this footage)

Simply a test I did for the effect, with no bearing on my final piece.

Tracking
I will have part where the camera pans around to the front of two characters at the start. I want to have this tracked and revolve with the 3D scene they are in. I have shown this in the animatic, too. As it will be handheld, the footage will need stabilised.

Test of stabilising footage and tracking in After Effects


Equipment

To be allowed to use the DMC-GH4 Lumix off site, I was required to fill out a Risk Assessment form. I've blacked out personal details.


My assets would be best filmed on the GH4 cameras, as they are 4K (Cinema 4K: 4096x2160 /24fps and QFHD - Quad Full HD - 4K: 3840x2160 up to 30fps). 
The live footage section will be shot with the GH4, as the camera suppresses rolling shutter effect when using electronic shutter.
Still images would also be best shot on the GH4, as the 16.05-Megapixel Digital Live MOS Sensor gives high quality, high sensitivity image recording with a very quick response.

Although as backup, I would have my Nikon D5200.

It's not as high quality as the GH4, but when all else fails, it would have to do. It has 23.5 x 15.6mm CMOS sensor and can shoot RAW images, just not RAW video.

Things to bear in mind:

Noise, Rolling Shutter
Noise:
The noise is able to throw off the tracking of shots. Noise is especially prevalent in dark shots, which should not be an issue for my shots. If you raise the ISO to give yourself a brighter shot, you are going to open yourself up to more noise, so you have to be very careful and shoot on a lower ISO. Noise is always going to be there, but you can remove that in post. At the end of the sequence, however, I will add noise. This will keep the piece looking "right" as we are used to seeing the noise in film.

Low ISO, giving a very dark scene for the lighting available. (

High ISO, the image is brightened by the High ISO 

Just right!
ISO is the last port of call for brightening images. It's best to alter the F number, which determines how much light is able to get to the sensor. If that fails to give the desired result, THEN you deal with the ISO.
(From Wikipedia)



Rolling Shutter:
Unless the camera has Global Shutter, you will be dealing with this. The sensor scans from top to bottom, meaning that if the camera is moving side to side, your image is going to be skewed, like this: \
Global Shutter is, if you imagine a stamped image. Everything is scanned at once.

DOF
Depth of Field in the video sequence will be important only on the characters, as the rest is blue screen. But in the CG elements, there will be DOF, as the parallax is making 2D images into 3D (or 2.5D to be precise).

Focus is on the background, bringing the front of the scene out of focus, blurring it.
Focus on the front of scene, the cat is fully focussed, where as the background has begun to blur out.

GANTT CHART
Ironically, for an animator, I don't like the image based planning or full chart style Gantt Charts. I prefer mine to be written out as below. It's not pretty, but it works for me, just like sticky boarding does.


Not being sure what Motion Graphics were really hindered my progress...

SHORT STORY - FLASH FICTION

SHORT STORY – FLASH FICTION TUTORIAL ASSIGNMENT

TASK: Walk from the classroom to another section of the University, taking note of sights, sounds, smells that we experience with the goal of writing a short story which will twist and turn depending on events we are given at times through the writing process.
Once we arrived at the final area where we would write our piece, we walked around the area further. The area was a nature area. In a notebook, I sketched out things I saw, as well as taking photographs for later use. These will be featured at the end of the post soon.


BLURB:

 University Student Chris McEwan thought his day was just like any other, unwilling to get out of bed until the latest possible moment before heading to his 9am class, but making it to class on time wasn't going to be a problem when he gets there Five Hundred years early.
After blacking out in his classroom, Chris awakens in the not so familiar surroundings of the 1500's James Graham building, but education isn't a high priority for the denizens Chris soon finds there as they begin to hunt him down in a brutal game of cat and mouse.
Chris soon discovers that he's not alone in fighting back against the robed maniacs who are baying for his blood, turning the tide in the heavily one-sided fight posed by resisting their attacks.
From the secluded compound of James Graham to the horrors of the Chaos Gate, the unlikely partnership find themselves making a final stand against the murderous Cult of Redemption in a last ditch attempt to escape back to their own eras and put an end to the time hopping, apocalyptic cult before their self fulfilling prophesy can be realised, unleashing an eternity of death and despair to all who oppose them under the red robes, ornate masks and the death call of the Cult of Redemption, Redemption! Redemption through fire and through blood!


The silent slumber was broken once more. Not by the cat seeking attention and food, diving from windowsill to the sleeping lump under the duvet, no, that ball of purring fluff had ran downstairs. I had heard him bound down the wooden, carpeted staircase, probably 5 steps at a time as usual, in that mysterious realm of half sleep. The intrusion to the dream plane was from the phone alarm next to my pillow. The incessant ringing jolted me to life as though using it's power source itself surging through me.
Thank God for Snooze,” was all I could think.
Snooze, however, is a double edged sword. Longer in bed, harder to get up. 10 minutes to get ready and leave the house. Morning routines were raced through, but not overlooked. Breakfast was an “eat-on-the-move” affair, slicing off a piece of brioche and downing a glass of water. What I wouldn't give for a cup of tea, even with the clinically clean taste of Sensodyne toothpaste lingering in my mouth.
The weather, like my brain, was muggy. Leeds was cast in a muted grey, the sky was a seemingly still, unchanging grey, the misery added to by the slight drizzle dotting my winter jacket and phone as I loaded up a podcast into my headphones to block out the monotonous drone of the commuters and school-runners. The weather was deceptive, looking cold but in actuality was pretty warm, the cloud cover sealing in the precipitation, making the air warm and moist. I was rapidly regretting wearing such a warm coat and a jumper...
8:30am on the nose. Right on schedule. The voices of Stephen Brooks and Rob Yulfo reviewing the new TMNT film starting my day with humour as I still creep gingerly from the grips of sleep. I can feel myself heating up insanely fast as I reach a slightly wooded area with concrete pathway which leads up to the entrance of the university. I was getting pretty self-conscious of how hot I was getting, feeling as if I was about to start pouring with sweat and knowing that once I get in the classroom and take off the coat and jumper there was going to be a blast of heat and probably sweat that would be unbearable.
Rounding into one of the James Graham building's corner stairways and taking the stairs two at a time, footsteps reverberating through the tall, empty stairwell, it never struck me as odd that I hadn't seen anyone since I got into the University grounds, just the little ginger cat that had made the Headingley campus it's home since I had started my course two years ago. As I entered into the classroom, another corner room full of dual-boot Macs (not that I ever used the Mac setting), these were the only things in here, joining that “academic” smell from whatever cleaning products the government had deemed standard for all educational buildings, but seemingly more pronounced today. I looked at my phone, 9:00am. I didn't understand what was going on. There were usually about a dozen other Level 6 students in the room waiting, turning their heads to see who was entering the classroom, voices lowering as they try to register who it was. Not today, however. I walked over to what had become my regular seat and began to punch in my username to get on the computer system.

Then Blackness.

I awake with a thud. The world had walked up and punched me in the face, then lay down beside me. I was on the blue carpeted flo- no, wait... There is no carpet here, just bare wood. The silver covering on the desk legs were also wood. Carved with an ornate pattern, the smell of Oak permeating my senses. My arms felt heavy, like my veins decided it would be fun to guide gravel around my body rather than blood. The groggy, sleep mist in my brain was back and in a big way. Everything I was trying to take in just wouldn't sit with me. The computers in the room were gone, with them the dull hum of the fans. The warm white light from the florescent lights replaced with the dull flickering lights of candles on sconce's in the walls. The light was enough to make out a face that stared at me from the wall. Where the whiteboard had been affixed previously, in it's place now was the portrait of a portly, bearded man of obvious stature. The gold and bejewelled accessories on his clothing told me clearly this man was of massive wealth without even having to know who he was. Middle school history lessons came flooding back, lifting the mist in my mind. This was the portrait of King Henry VIII. The man who famously had his wives executed for being unable to give him a male heir. The man who founded the Church of England so he could divorce some of his wives.
“What the hell is going on here?!” I exclaimed aloud to myself. But, it would appear, not just to myself. I heard the scraping of chairs in another room. The slamming of a door and the rush of footsteps towards the room I was in. The door exploded inwards as I was rushed by a robed figure wearing a metal mask. The mask was a terrifying face, seemingly in excruciating pain, with horns curling from it's temples. The figure, presumably a male, wore a crimson robe with leather shoulder pads forming a type of armour for his chest and shoulders. The trim on the bottom of the robe was adorned with a flame motif. He brandished a blade at me. The blade was an unusual shape, not straight edged, but more like a snake, curved in a repeating “S” pattern. It must have been some form of ceremonial knife. But whatever it was for, it's being pointed at my throat and the maniac was chanting at me,
“Redemption, Redemption, through fire and through blood!”
He repeated this mantra as he charged forward, turning up to a blood curdling scream rendition of his line. He was closing in on my rapidly. He turned 15 feet to 5 in a second. I could only imagine the fevered expression under the unchanging mask he wore, saliva foaming in the corners of his mouth, his eyes wide and bloodshot...
I snapped out of my shock of being charged by this maniac, dropping to the floor and raising a foot to his groin.
“Underhanded,” I thought to myself, “but I don't think he would extend much courtesy to me as he was brandishing a knife at my face.”
He sailed through the air and collided with a solid Oak table which snapped a leg and collapsed him again into a heap on the floor. Blood began to pool on the floor, the dark wood becoming gradually darker of the crimson, copper smelling ooze flowed upon it. The mad man must have landed on his own knife.
“Better him than me,” I coldly muttered under my breath.
Leaving the James Graham building the way I came, down the reverberating stairwell, I heard the rush of more footsteps, sounding like bare skin slapping the stone stairs, making it sound like an army was pursuing me.
The weather outside was how I remember it, the solid sheet of grey cloud choking the landscape, refusing to betray the location of the Sun with it's thick presence.
I made a dash across the Acre, the large field dotted with trees, to put as much space between me and the crazed Tudorian cultists. More doors exploded out, this time actually being removed from their hinges, remnants of door frames settling to the ground as I turned to see the origin of the noise. Probably a dozen cultists dressed similarly to the original mad man I saw in the classroom saw me across the field and began chasing. Small knives were brandished above their heads as they gave chase, their screams could be heard clear as day, carried easily by the otherwise silent, still air. One of the maniacs tore at me with a massive battleaxe hurled backwards. The hood on his robe had fallen back, his leather armour was nowhere to be seen and a mass of dirty ginger locks billowed behind him with the momentum he moved at.
The damp grass squealed under the rubber soles of my black trainers. Sliding slightly as I rounded a tree ahead and broke off towards the wood I could see before me. The maniacs were behind me still, sounding like they were getting closer, but it may have just been my mind focusing on them, drowning out anything else around me.
The ground became a worn mud path bordered on each side by hedgerows, badly kept and growing wild.
“Keep to the middle!” I told myself, but too late. After dashing around a corner, I was along the outside of the path and before I could get back into the relative safety of the middle of the path, I was grabbed by the arm and dragged into a bush. I began to thrash, just looking to connect with something so I could gain a target for more attacks. I found it. The forced exhale from my assailant as I forced my fist into his gut was followed with a barrage of punches until I was free from their grip.
Free from the grip of my attacker, I prepared to salvage any weapons I could from them, mentally kicking myself for not taking the blade from my first attacker when I had the chance!
He was dressed differently to the robed maniacs that I could hear rushing past my location on the other side of the hedgerow. This man was wearing a totally different style of dress. He wore a brown cloth outfit, apparently some form of uniform, possibly for a militia. A hat lay nearby, a fur hat with a tail, raccoon by the looks of it. Next to that, a rifle with “DC” etched on the butt stock.
The man gained purchase on the ground and raised up slightly, looking me dead in the eyes, and in a thick Tennessee accent he introduced himself,
“Davy Crockett, Second Regiment Mounted Riflemen... That's quite the punch on you, son!”
I eyed him cautiously. I don't know much of Davy Crockett, but I'm fairly certain he never came to Britain in a Tennessee Militia, thirty years before he was born. I extended my hand to him, he grasped my hand and I helped him to his feet,
“I'm guessing since you' not killed me, you ain't one of those there unhinged fellas!” Davy laughed, holding his gut still.
“Luckily, no. But I guess if one person will understand my situation, it's you. I've just got here, wherever 'HERE' is”
“Well, you got a name, son?”
“Chris. Keep down!”
We both crouched down, the sound of the robed crazies running our way again clear as they slapped through the mud. Davy passed me a hunting knife I had strapped to his leg. I grasped it and held it ready to strike, should we be found.
He had already took his rifle and readied it, a round charged, ready to fire. The maniacs went straight past us again, shouting something about clearing the garden of Chaos.
Davy picked up,
“Garden of Chaos..? I've heard them mention that before, a couple-a days ago. They were preparing somethin' they called a 'Chaos Gate' in there. Something about a portal to the future?”
It struck me there and then. The Chaos Gate had been dragging people from the future to these maniacs. But why?
“Davy, do you know where the Garden is?”
“A little further back here, why?”
“I've got a feeling that's our ticket out of here.”
Davy led me to a large wall, being careful to not betray our position to the enemy. If we were to find out how to get back, we needed the element of surprise. The time playing Paintball competitively had taught me a lot for keeping as silent as possible when behind enemy lines. Crockett himself was a famed hunter in his own time, making our concealment a little easier. We scaled the wall and dropped to the other side. The dead trees, blackened fallen, the stone floors were uneven and slippery with the moisture. Beside us was a pond, the water covered with algae. The only way to know there was water, or some other liquid – who knows with these maniacs - was because the algae moved slightly with the ebb and flow of whatever was beneath it.
Cages were stacked around randomly, most had people in them in varying states of decay. The only thing that they had in common was that the heads had all been removed. Visions of the massive axe carrying cultist beheading the victims sprang to mind. I shook my head to try and remove the horrible sight. Davy dragged me forward to the side of a greenhouse. Our footsteps were muffled by the grass on the stonework so we were able to get close to where we heard voices. We had got close enough to them that we could hear clearly what was being said,
“Malakev will have our heads if we cannot find both of the travellers!” one cultist said harshly to a clearly younger, smaller member in dirt encrusted white robes.
“Can we not just bring others from the Chaos Gate to offer up as sacrifice?” the younger asked much to the amusement of his elder,
“And are YOU going to offer your soul to the blood cairn to open the Chaos Gate, Karloth?” he pointed to a large brass chalice in front of them, “You know Malakev's wishes, that our numbers be placed through the age of man to spread influence of his teachings and foretell of His return to lead His flock to triumph at the time he deems fit! We must only sacrifice those deemed unfit of life in His world or the Gate will can only send a brother and then seal shut and we have not the numbers to reopen it.”
We moved ourselves to better see the area. Beside the greenhouses were stacks of logs. They looked like funeral pyres, prepared for the burning of their victims, if they had not just been left to decompose slowly.
They gathering had taken on a more members, eight of the robed maniacs stood in front of another stone wall with a large circle through the centre. Red Ivy hung around the top of the arch, but it was the colour of blood, the colour of the robes of the cult. Davy adjusted slightly, bringing his rifle level, using the pyre as a stable platform and taking aim at one of the cultists stood above the Blood Cairn.
“Chris, we need to get you back to your time,” he whispered, “I'll shoot one and once the Gate opens, you get through.”
“What about you? You'll be stuck here!”
“When I was taken from my time, I was about to be killed, Chris. I had a sword coming towards me in the Alamo. I was unable to protect my comrades and we were being executed. Here, I can protect you. I can die with honour.”
“Davy, your story lives on forever. You DO die with honour!”
“Too late, son!”
Davy pulled the trigger. The crack of the rifle filled the still air, the muzzle flash almost blinding as the projectile is fired from the barrel of the gun, towards one of the cloaked maniacs and finds it's target easily. The blood begins to pour from the chest of the cultist as he falls onto the giant chalice. His brothers stare at their fallen member, the air silent, filled with the smell of burning flesh and gunpowder.
I hand the knife back to Davy and set off as a shock wave erupts from the Chaos Gate forcing the cultists to go scatter with the force. Davy charges at the foes with his knife out, slicing the air in front of him, streams of blood and cries of pain splitting the air. He is surrounded. Wildly slashing, hoping to make contact with anyone, to cause as much harm as he can.
As I dived through the portal, the last I saw of Davy Crockett was a curved sword being thrust into his chest by what appeared to be a Priest, who I can only assume was the Malakev they spoke of.

I awoke back in the classroom, still empty of my classmates, but with the familiar hum of the computer fans. As I opened my eyes, I saw the carpet, the table legs, the whiteboard, the lights.
I left James Graham again, everything looked how it had when I first entered the University.
“CHRIS!” a voice called from behind.
I turned to see who called my name. A red robed Priest stood before me.
“So we finally meet, Chris. Your traveller friend sends his regards.”
Malakev had managed to fulfil his prophecy and he came after me. A vendetta that spanned 500 years. Although I never found out why I was chosen as a sacrifice, I did find out that a sword to the chest hurts. It hurts a lot, if only for a moment.


Then Blackness.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Rubber Onion Podcast Animation, featuring me!

So, 10 months ago, I won a competition set by The Rubber Onion Podcast and the prize was that I would be caricatured and put in the next Podcast Animation. Yesterday, it went live! Rob Yulfo's caricature version of me is fantastic and Stephen Brooks asked me to record a line for it, too.
I love what they have done, both in the podcast and in their own animation work and being in a piece of their work is just amazing for me. And I think it's funny that the Podcast they uploaded before this went live ended with Stephen talking about how he hates when people get his name wrong. Then he gets my name wrong, hahaha! LINK TO THE VIDEO