Journalism (in-house)

Sanity is madness put to good use
Q&A: Oddball Studios

“Sanity is a madness put to good use”: identical twin brothers Sam and Peter Foster’s ethos is summed up by the toilet door inscription on the grotesquely chaotic Oddball-Studio’s website. The Wigan-based duo caught up with us to talk about the method in their madness, the inspiration behind their surrealism and to give us a glimpse of their latest project.

What is Oddball-Studios about? 
Oddball-Studios is a website name and was intended to describe the bizarre twists to that of a normal world. The style of the creations are very much inspired from the 90's era of children's cartoons such as the creator John Kricfalusi known for Ren and Stimpy. Most of our past animations are done using 'cut-out' or pose animation techniques but we are now looking into traditional 2D animation for our future projects [see pictures].



Prepared, conducted and written for Imagine magazine, April 2010.

Interview: Mark Taylor

Standing in the foyer of the A Productions headquarters stands a giant wolf: the studio’s director Mark Taylor is about to discuss Cbeebies’ new animated series Driver Dan’s Story Train. Standing next to him is another giant wolf, its cartoon eyes and comical grin leering at visitors. Behind a desert of unoccupied desks and tables lies a small staircase leading up to Mark’s office where a conversation about green screens and Abu Dhabi ensues.

Driver Dan's Story Time
What is Driver Dan’s Story Train?
Driver Dan’s Story Train is a pre-school series, currently running on CBeebies. It’s an animated show with a strong cast of characters and it’s got a very strong literacy angle to it, but it’s not an educational programme. It’s all about telling stories. It’s done in a fun way, so we’re not being prescriptive or lecturer-y. We have an interaction element with viewers at home; in the title sequence, we introduce live action children and then we go into Driver Dan’s world, but we hear real kids in voice over, who we record. Driver Dan turn[s] to camera and ask[s] questions and you hear kids’ voices talking back. It’s a very inclusive idea. 



Written for Imagine Magazine, April 2010.

Forensic Animation

Imagine a hushed, reserved courtroom, jurors’ heads bowed, quietly contemplating the evidence that may or may not convict the man in front of them to life behind bars. He shot a pedestrian in cold blood, they are told. They have been given motives, fingerprints, DNA; but he protests his innocence. The stillness is broken when the jury’s attention is stolen by a screen in front of them: it plunges them directly into the crime scene. Everyone in the room is guided through the scenario: they retrace the suspect’s footsteps, they look around at the wet pavement behind them. When their gaze is returned ahead of them, they meet the victim, digitally resurrected to convict his killer. Animation has surpassed the business of entertainment and reached the realms of law.

Forensic animation has been growing in popularity since the early 90s, but recently Vancouver College of Art and Design has pioneered a 3D animation course that includes forensic animation. It has increasingly been used to inform and convince juries in court by presenting them with 3D diagrams of settings or even placing them at the scene. Forensic Visualisation Models (FVMs) have been developed so that jurors can relive crimes at 30 frames per second from the courtroom, bringing judges and lawyers up to speed with the experts. Animators collaborate with eyewitness testimonies and accident reports to recreate the scene of crime, complete with interactive camera angles. Before the animation is shown in court, police investigators can explore locations, analyse events and experiment with hypothetical situations with a view of enhancing the evidence already gathered. In theory, they need never visit the site themselves, saving time and money. Using laser scanning techniques, small but vital details can be recreated and added to digital scenes: in one case, skid marks that existed three years previously were added to an animation created for a car accident case.


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