Getting my Research Done

With the animatic complete I was able to show it to teachers/educators this week. I did this so I could interview them to get primary research for my dissertation which is on the Educational Potential of Animation in Developing Countries. I also wanted their general feedback on the animation so I would know if it was appropriate for the audience.

In the end I managed to interview 5 teachers and educators with different backgrounds in teaching. My first interview was with Marco who founded the school from which we got our voice actors. The second was Manyoni who is a Rasta that uses crafts in lessons at the local schools. The third was Kelvin (who one of my characters is named after) who is a Zambian university student that regularly conducts lessons as part of his course. The fourth and fifth were Gray and Esther, the founders of Raise a Smile.

Showing Manyoni the animation...

Showing Manyoni the animation…

... Then getting his feedback

… Then getting his feedback

I would firstly show the person the animation then ask a series of questions which varied slightly based on the answers given. I was really please with the positive feedback I got from everyone. The quality of the answers I got was excellent as there were lots of very goof points being made and several things I hadn’t even considered for my dissertation that were raised. I was also very pleased by this point as I had achieved the two main things I needed from my trip, recording the characters voices and completing my primary research. All I needed now was some reference images.

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Getting Back to Work

As the schools have opened again I’ve spent this week making sure my animatic is ready to show to teachers. To ensure my animation is culturally relevant I showed what I had created so far to the Raise a Smile charity workers to get their feedback as they have been here much longer than me so know what would be appropriate better than I would. Using their feedback I  was able to make slight changes to the visual side of my story.

With this complete I was able to move on to the script for the narrator and the dialog between the two boys. I had created a script which again I showed to the charity workers for feedback. With their feedback we then went on to the Tikondane theatre group which is a group that uses drama to educate people on health and developmental issues within Zambia. Again I showed the script for feedback to make sure it was written in the way that the target audience would be familiar with and to make sure it contained all the relevant information needed.

Once the script was alright we had to find people to do the voices of the children and the narrator. We thought Angela, one of the members of Tikondane would be a good fit for the narrator which meant we just had to find the two children’s voices. We went to a local school that the Raise a Smile workers had previously worked with and asked the head teacher if he thought there were any students suitable for the voices. He recommended two students to use and the following day (after getting permission from the childrens parents) we took them to the Tikondane Visual Arts Centre.

With all the voice actors selected and in once place we asked Make and Angela from Tikondane to coach the children and read through their lines with them. After a while the children started to get more relaxed and comfortable with the script and were starting to sound good. At this point we decided to go to a local radio station called Radio Maria that Tikondane had worked with before that had said we could rent their studio.

Radio Maria

Radio Maria

Once myself, two of the Raise a Smile workers, Make and Angela from Tikondane and the two children arrived at Radio Maria we were taken to a studio. The studio was soundproofed, appeared to have very god recording equipment and we were helped by a sound technician the whole time. We stayed in the studio for around an hour and got several recordings of every line so that I could later go through the files an chose the best ones.

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The voice actors for “Kelvin” and “Peter”

A huge advantage of having members of Tikondane with us was that we were able to get them to translate our script from English to Nyanja. This allowed us to do a second set of recordings in Nyanja which means the final animation can be in two languages resulting in it being accessible to more people.

I was really happy with the quality of the recording and spent the following few days editing them and making slight changes to the timing of the animatic to make it sync with the voices. Now this has been completed the animatic ready to show to teachers.

Back from Safari

We drove to the South Luangwa National Park and stayed at the Marula Lodge for 2 nights. When we arrived at the lodge we were planning to camp there but as it was rainy season so wasn’t very busy, the owners upgraded us to rooms for free which was a very nice start to the trip.

Marula Lodge

Marula Lodge

I liked how blunt the signs were...

I liked how blunt the signs were…

The lodge was located on the bank of the Luangwa river which meant there were lovely views but also that at night, hippos would walk around between the buildings. This was exciting but also quite scary and meant that if you wanted to go anyway within the grounds you had to call someone to escort you. I got someone to take me from my room to the restaurant or to the car when I needed. However, when I was just going to the room next to mine I didn’t think it was necessary. I thought this was fine until one time I was stood at the door of the room next to mine, shining my torch around and waiting to be let in when I saw the light from my tourch reflecting back at me. Turns out there was a massive hippo just stood there staring at me about 5 meters away. It’s safe to say I was more than a little scared and decided to forget being polite and let myself into the room instead of waiting to be let in.

When we weren’t at the lodge either sleeping or eating we were in the national park itself. We decided to self drive so we could look for exactly what we wanted and spent around 8 hours each day driving with the aim of trying to see Lions or Leopards in the wild. We had no luck with the lions but on the second day after talking to safari guides and going the the various places we’d heard tips about we briefly saw a leopard.

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We searched for so long to see this!

Seeing the leopard was great and along the way we got see see and photograph a lot (pictures to follow in the next post). During our leopard/lion search we also saw the more common animals like elephants, giraffes, impala, zebra, buffalo etc. One day we were driving seemed to be and especially moody day for elephants which resulted in us have one charge at our car which we had to swerve to avoid being hit by.

After we’d spent a couple of days driving round the safari park ourselves we decided we would go on the official safari from our lodge. There was a car going out in the late afternoon that would arrive back at night that we decided to go in as we would get a chance to see the nocturnal animals. We had also heard there was a pack of African Wild Dogs in the area too which are an endangered species and are only seen very rarely.

We left for the night drive whilst it was still light and within half an hour of driving around a car pulled up to us and said they had just seen the wild dogs and knew where they were. We went to where we had been directed too and found 6 wild dogs lying in the sun. We were the first people there but after about 45 minutes there was about 6 safari vehicles around the dogs. By this point the dogs had started to get a bit more active and were play fighting with each other which allowed us to get some pretty good photos.

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After the wild dogs left the sun started to go down. We stayed in the park for another couple of hours and saw a few interesting nocturnal animals but by this point the safari was mostly over. It was a great experience and I’d love to do it again sometime.

I Made It

After over 24 hours spent on planes, train and automobiles I’ve managed to complete the five and a half thousand miles journey from Stockport>London>Addis Ababa>Lilongwe>Chipata. The journey went well except for having to listen to a selection of about 10 awful Christmas songs for about an hour on the plane before it took off then getting lost trying to leave Lilongwe airport and nearly ending up on a runway!

About to leave!

About to leave!

As term hasn’t started yet in the local schools I won’t be able to record the voices of the characters for my animation yet or show my animation to any teachers so we are planning on going on safari for a couple of days before term starts so I can see what Africa is famous for.

To Zambia!

Thanks to a bursary from the Sheffield Institute of Arts and help from the Raise a Smile charity; I will be starting the new year with by making the 5,500 mile trip from my house in south Manchester to Chipata in eastern Zambia.

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5,516 Miles!

While i’m there I will be doing research for my dissertation on the Educational Potential of Animation in Developing Countries. I will also be recording the narration for my 3rd year animation piece as well as doing research and getting reference images for it.

Going so close to Christmas has left me pretty unprepared but I’ve just taken my first Malaria tablet and am about to start packing. Depending on how frequently I have access to the internet I’ll try and keep posting on this blog so if you’re interested, watch this space.

Happy New Year everyone!

Black & White Berlin

Me an my trusty AE-1 went to Berlin recently, here are some of the photos…

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Finished Head

Finished Head – Click to see GIF

App Design & Development

One of the last modules I had to complete in order to finish my 2nd year at Sheffield Hallam University was App Design & Development. For this module, unsurprisingly, we had to create an Android based mobile phone/tablet application. We worked in pairs and were given free rein to make whatever app we wanted. Me and the person I was working with decided to create a pirate based platform game for young children to play on tablets. We worked on it for several months an came up with the following:

We created the app in Flash using Action Script 3. The character that was drawn and animated in Flash and levels that were designed and created in 3ds Max and rendered to look 2D.

Snow, Innit

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It was snowing in Sheffield today, how lovely.