John Howard facial animation test


John Howard’s Knees – facial animation test from David Blumenstein on Vimeo.

A short facial animation test for John Howard’s Knees!

I’ve gone through a few different designs for Howard; this one is the simplest, but I wasn’t sure if it would work with the voice.

I built a set of standard “sad” mouths for him (11), then animated some lipsync to this bit of wibbling we recorded, finding out as I did what extra mouths (the sketched red ones) need to be added to the set to make the lipsync look better.

I think it looks OK. What do you reckon?

John Howard’s Knees: design redux

Been having more thoughts about the look and style of John Howard’s Knees (a cartoon I’m making about the former PM and his smashable knees).

I quite like this version of him, as far as the balance between cartoon character and actual resemblance goes, but the style feels like a rip-off of something, not sure what (UPA?). Tried to do a version without black line. It looked shit.

Think this version goes better with Tony Martin’s voice; haven’t tried a test yet. Might do that next!

Previous version of Howard.

Realistic Howard!


Originally wanted this to be a very simple project, almost animated straightahead without much planning (so I’d actually get it done).

Having an excellent voice for Howard and the singer/s has made that seem like a huge waste, that instead this should become really elaborate and I should put in the hard yards and get the animation as great as I can possibly make it.

I’m swinging back in the other direction now and feeling like maybe the sound being great will CARRY the cheap visuals.


Also, thinking of having the song lyrics appear as part of the backgrounds.

John Howard’s Knees: recording session 01

So I’ve mentioned that I’m working on a new music short film called John Howard’s Knees, about the ex-PM and his bewitching patellas.

Everybody wants to smash ’em!

We had our very first proper recording session last month. Prior to this, I’d recorded a fairly crap demo track featuring me singing the song over a lush bed of cheap Korg synth (Poly-800, if you want to know).

The idea with this session was to get two people in. One is my friend Sue, who’s an opera singer. I wanted her to take a crack at singing some of the song so I’d have something less nasty than my own voice to listen to on the demo. Also, I’d never heard her sing and I reckoned she might well be awesome.

As it turned out, she was (and is)! So she’ll be on the final track. She did an amazing job in the studio considering he had a cold, and this was our first rehearsal, and neither of us quite knew how the melodies/harmonies were supposed to go. Nao, the recordist, helped us out a bit with this (thank you, Nao).

The second person is sort of a hero of mine; Tony Martin (of The Late Show, Martin/Molloy and Get This, not Blue Murder, Wildside and The Interview). He agreed to drop in and be the voice of John Howard in the fillum.

I felt a bit shitty for asking him to come and do some schtick he’s been doing for twenty years (you can hear a bit of his musical Howard here!), but hopefully seeing his Howard as a cartoon character will be a bit of fun for him.

One challenge will be matching the design to the voice. The Howard impression he does is more a characterisation than a true “accurate impression”. If I was to compare it to a cartoon, I’d say his Howard is a Tandberg. So my Howard design is along those lines. It might need to be a little simpler even. I’m obsessed at the moment with the idea that maybe his mouth goes “vertical” when he yells, but this is a rip on Ren from Ren & Stimpy, so I may chuck it.

Anyway, the session went well, and swiftly, and, as with my recording of Shaun Micallef a few years back, he was swift and good-humored. And I kept things professional. I even did a dialogue list and remembered to get lots of little “uh!” “weh!” “yaaa!”-type noises out of him to use while he’s being chased, etc (this is important).

I didn’t get any session pics! I had two hours off work and we packed ’em with recording. Next time.

Before I get the singer/s into the studio to do the song properly, I’m going to do a MIDI file with the melody and harmony lines in it so they can study it beforehand. Will also record the other actor voices soon.

I’m thinking of not bothering with a storyboard for this film.

Precinct is kicking goals in Opera House animation comp

Haven’t had time to post properly lately as I’ve been extra busy. Hopefully the Tweeting makes up for that. The good news is that things are going splendidly on all fronts!

  1. I’ve been doing new Precinct animation (well… really a jumped-up animatic with some colour) for the Sydney Opera House’s GRAPHIC animation competition, and it’s paying off — The Precinct is in the finals! Winning would mean $20,000 of production money coming our way, which is very exciting. If you want to help us win the audience award, voting opens July 26. Follow me on Twitter or become a fan of The Precinct on Facebook if you’d like updates about this. Or just keep checking this blog, I guess.
  2. We did our first sound recording for John Howard’s Knees this week. It went fantastic. I’d encourage people to become a fan of this film on Mr Facebook as well. Do it. You won’t regret it.
  3. I’ll be freelance again in September! Who needs some cartoons, storyboards or animation?
  4. I just turned 30, and my wife took me to a salami-making class for my birthday.

So everything is going great.