Students Using Innovative Animation Techniques in Kenk Production

IMG_2124-KenksI met film producers Craig Small (producer/director) and Kris Howald (Sheridan Faculty) at the Sheridan Student Union’s Marquee restaurant over lunch to discuss their made-at-Sheridan production, Kenk.

Kenk is an experimental animated film about Toronto’s notorious bike thief named Igor Kenk (who operated the Bicycle Clinic on Queen St. West and was arrested for prolific bike theft in 1993), which is based on a graphic novel produced by Alex Jensen. Kris connected Craig with Sheridan, and they have been working through the summer along with eleven interning students to develop the film’s 3D, 2D and stop-motion sequences.

“I’m having a lot of fun,” said Bachelor of Animation student Natalia Pasco. “It’s really cool doing concept art because we have a lot of freedom to try different things, and we are learning from doing so many different [techniques].”

When Craig started the project in 2010, Alex Jensen provided him with footage he’d captured of Kenk up until his arrest, but the footage came from a hand-held, low-quality camera, and included zooming in and out in all directions, and was meant only as source material. It was essentially not useable for a documentary. Alex had used stills from the film to create a paper-cut-art style to his telling of the story. Craig saw the challenge of working with crude footage as an opportunity to develop a new animation technique, putting the graphic novel in motion.

To develop characters using visual effects, the crew is taking 2D images from rough film, and wrapping it around 3D models to create synthetic puppets using Maya software, which are developed into 3D sequences. Craig calls it projection mapping, but the result looks more like digital origami. In addition, the film uses stop motion techniques to bring to life dioramas of urban landscapes, photographs, newspaper articles and bike parts. This hybrid technique allows the story to move between stop motion, live action, computer animation and traditional 2D animation, while creating a unique artistic style that promises to be visually unparalleled.

“We’ve mainly been modeling in 3D,” explained Bachelor of Animation student John Leung, “but now we’ve started working on a nightmare sequence in 2D. Right now everything is loose and conceptual.” The crew is made up of an even mix of 2D, 3D and stop motion interns, and although John says that they began by working individually, the students have actually come together to learn different skills from each other.

Craig has received funding from the National Film Board of Canada for the project, and he hopes to launch the finished film with their support in spring 2014. With total production time estimated at four years, the final film will only be about 15 minutes. Associate Dean of Animation and Game Design, Angela Stukator, backs the project whole-heartedly. “This film is going to be fabulous, and I hope to see it on the international film festival circuit next year.”

To learn more about Sheridan’s Animation program, click here.

For more about our Computer Animation programs, click here.

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