Blog posts by year and month March 2011

Posts (83)

  1. Are you a fan of The Blackout? We are very pleased to announce that singers Gavin Butler and Sean Smith of the band will be here in the BBC Wales Music offices for an interview on Wednesday 23 March at 5pm. Gavin and Sean will be taking questions from fans - and you can get involved! Sea...

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  2. Mold is a small town in north east Wales renowned for novelist Daniel Owen, its farmers market, a prehistoric gold cape and for fine schools that prepared for the world the multiple talents of Rhys Ifans, Jonny Buckland, acclaimed children's author/illustrator Jonathan Duddle and The Joy Formida...

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  3. Rastamouse. For those not yet in the know, he's all about Makin' A Bad Ting Good. As are Dinamo Productions, the Welsh company behind the stop motion animation for this new hit children's programme. We bartered some cheese in exchange for an interview with joint managing director Aron Evans. Rastamouse is a new children's animated series following the eponymous crime fighting, guitar playing, skateboarding hero and his band of mystery solving, friends and reggae-playing musicians - the Easy Crew. If you haven't seen it yet, take a look on BBC iPlayer. The stop motion animation series is based on the books written by Genevieve Webster and Michael De Souza, and the character of Rastamouse is voiced by British actor and presenter Reggie Yates. Rastamouse characters on set: Scratchy, Rastamouse and Zoomer Read on to see what MD Aron has to say about the programme and his successful company. Tell us a little about Dinamo Productions' involvement with Rastamouse. We first met Greg Boardman and Eugenio Perez, the producers for Three Stones Media who produce Rastamouse, two years ago in Cannes. They showed us the project and told us that they had acquired rights to Rastamouse the book, and they showed us a short piece of film. They were looking for an animation studio to work on Rastamouse, so we had a look at the project and absolutely loved it. We then had a further discussion in terms of how we could collaborate. We secured help and funding through the Wales Creative IP Fund from the Welsh Assembly and secured the work to Dinamo. It's been a great journey. Though Rastamouse has only recently burst onto our screens, when did Dinamo first start filming the stop-animation for the programme? We started the animation about eight months ago. We recruited a load of animators and started off by working with the models; the puppets were coming initially from props company Mackinnon and Saunders, and the first thing that we did was practice the characters' walks to get the them right. The walks are very important, as was getting Rastamouse to ride the skateboard really well. It took quite a while to get that right, as we needed a specific look to it. One of the main things for us as a company was getting some of the designs from Genevieve Webster, the illustrator of the books, and then transcribing those illustrations into 3D sets. It did take a while to crack that nut but we were very pleased collectively, and Genevieve was really pleased with the result. I remember when I took her round the studio Genevieve - being one of the creators of Rastamouse - was incredibly emotional to see the work transcribed into stop motion reality. What is your reaction to the huge success that Rastamouse is currently enjoying? Did you think that it would be such a hit? One of the reasons that Dinamo chose to work on this project was the fact that it was so fresh and so different. I loved the rhythm of the language and also the art direction; I found it very attractive. I think the audience watching on CBeebies have reacted in the same way that I reacted to it initially, I embraced as it's such an original concept and it's such a positive programme - I absolutely loved the scripts when I first read them, which was about a year and a half ago. I'm not really surprised it's had such a good reaction, I'm really gratified by the reaction, but I thought it was a winner from the beginning. On the set of Rastamouse TV episodes are around 10 minutes long; how much time goes into creating each episode? It's hard to work out actually; presently we're working on seven episodes at any one given time. It's a complicated show to film because there are so many characters, but I would guess that each episode takes about two weeks to film. Can you briefly describe the animation process to us? The stop-animation process is exactly like The Fast Show sketch! Tom Edgar, the animation director, sets up the shot and Christine Vestergaard the DOP/lighting director gets it lit nicely and focused and then the animators, when we're happy with the picture, look at the animatic, which is the version of the storyboard with the sound on it. The animators then match the sound and then literally move the models a frame at a time and animate the characters. It's a laborious but very, very highly skilled production flow. Did you have much creative input in designing the characters and sets, or were they fairly faithfully adapted from the books? Initially right at the beginning of production the models were provided by Mackinnon and Saunders but because of the amount of characters that are in the production we have an in-house team that create the clothes for the characters and as a company we also started to build our own characters. So it's kind of migrated; there was an initial huge and fantastic input by Mackinnon and Saunders and then gradually as the logistics took over a lot of the transcribing of the original designs by Genevieve were then handled by Emily Hartley and Natasha Harrison, who make the costumes for the models. So our involvement as a company is quite crucial in that process; Emily and Natasha do an amazing job of interpreting the quite simple 2D designs as we have to make them work on the models. It's a very interesting but very creative process. Behind the scenes with the team at Dinamo Productions Illustrations of the Rastamouse characters at the Dinamo studios Do you work closely with the voice actors during the animation process? Are their parts recorded before or after you've done the visuals? Conventionally in terms of stop motion animation the voices are all recorded and then provided to us at the studio so our involvement on that side isn't a great deal really. We do sometimes suggest changes to the script but that's mostly controlled by Greg and Eugenio. Will there be more series featuring Rastamouse and the Easy Crew in the future? I'd love if it there were more series of Rastamouse! It's going to be a very interesting time because we don't know at the moment what the audience numbers are, and how well it's doing so it's kind of early days. But certainly it's created a lot of really good PR so hopefully, fingers crossed we'll get more, but we'll see. What other programmes have Dinamo Productions been involved with? Last year we were shooting a series called Tellytales in conjunction with Elen Rhys at BBC Wales. That was a series we did for CBeebies and it involved a lot of live action and 2D animation. We've also been involved with Grandpa In My Pocket, which has been a very successful show. That was all shot in Cardiff and that was a highly rating show and is currently showing on CBeebies. We've just finished a third series of that, and we did all of the GFX [graphic effects] and the animation for that particular series. We also finished, about a year ago, a series for ZDF and Playhouse Disney called Fun With Claude, which was a 52-part 10-minute show, purely in 2D animation. We've had a very busy couple of years, and certainly Rastamouse was crucial in the development of the company because it gave us a chance to put a stop motion studio together and gave us the opportunity to move over to Treforest. Details of the various Rastamouse sets and scenery Can you tell us about any future projects you have in the pipeline? / What are you working on at the moment? We've got a new show called The Abadas, a commission by CBeebies, S4C and RTE. We're very excited about this show; it's a combination of 2D animation and live action, and the producer is our in-house senior producer Siwan Jobbins, so we're going to be in production of that project in the summer. And yet to be announced is another 26-part half-hour show, but it's a bit early for us to announce that... How many people work on Rastamouse and what sorts of tasks do they do? Currently we've got nine animators working on Rastamouse. In the art department, in terms of the set and the set dressing, we've got about five people working on that, plus a lighting engineer, a DOP [director of photography], an editor, runners, production coordinators and myself - it does amount to about 25 people. A Rastamouse set in production Pieces of scenery including bread, cakes, loaves, pizzas and pizza boxes How many different models of the main characters are there, and how do they differ? In terms of the Easy Crew - so Scratchy, Zoomer and Rastamouse - we've got eight copies of each of those models. Of the other main characters we've probably got about three or four, and also about 12 little orphans - as they're very busy in lots of the shots! It is interesting shooting stop motion as it's a bit like managing actors, because you've only got a certain amount of characters you can work with. We have a lot of set and puppet clashes, which is an interesting logistical problem. Also worth mentioning is that some animators work with particular models. For example, Edward Jackson, one of our animators, likes to work with models that are quite loose in terms of their joints - he works with a specific Rastamouse which is a bit looser, whereas some of the other animators like to work with models that are a bit more stiff. Each animator 'owns' their own Rastamouse. How many frames are typically used in a second of animation? We're shooting on twos, so we have about 12/13 frames per second, but when we're shooting the skating sequences we shoot on ones - so that's 25 frames per second. Shooting on twos is faster, you can do it twice as fast but if you're doing a skating sequence for example and you're shooting on twos, you get a kind of strobing effect which looks a little ugly. So if you have any very fast movement it's best to work on ones - it's a smoother action and it's more pleasing to the eye as it's a faster frame rate. Does Dinamo plan to do more stop motion animation in the future? Is your core business likely to remain computer-generated? What the future holds is for Dinamo to be a one-stop shop for all types of animation, that's what we'd like to keep on doing. I've got a number of projects which I'm looking at at the moment which include other stop motion projects. We're also looking at going into the games industry and also feature film work as well. Is it more labour-intensive to shoot stop motion animation as opposed to CGI? Stop motion animation looks on the face of it to be quite labour intensive but on any given day a lot of the animators can get through about 12 to 14 seconds of animation, which is really quick. It doesn't sound too quick to the layman but in terms of animation it's very quick! But with CGI animation you can probably do about four seconds of animation, so it kind of balances out. Stop motion animation is physically demanding and there's a lot of issues in terms of re-use, but with CGI animation you can re-use a lot of the animation which isn't so much of the case with stop motion. Gladstone, President Wensley Dale and Ice Popp on set How long has the company been running, and how long have you been based at the Treforest Industrial Estate? Myself and Owen Stickler started the company in 2004, and we had about six people working for us. We moved over to Treforest about seven months ago, and we've currently got about 85 people working for us. Further information: Rastamouse on CBeebies Watch Rastamouse on BBC iPlayer Official Rastamouse website Dinamo Productions website

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  4. In a very special Saturday Session for Radio 2, Gruff Rhys performed a cover version of Manic Street Preachers' classic A Design For Life. Zoe Ball was standing in on the Dermot O'Leary's show on 26 February when she was joined by Gruff. He talked about the threat to public libraries in the c...

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  5. With the release next week of Funeral For Friend's fifth studio album, Welcome Home Armageddon, we take a look at the critical reception the record has been getting. Funeral For A Friend Rock Sound (9/10) "Welcome Home Armageddon is an extremely satisfying album, for fans old and ne...

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  6. I've been in a privileged position over the years to follow closely the fortunes of the 21st century Welsh rock generation as they blew away preconceived notions of what characterised Welsh music and created a new shorthand for the country's louder acts. It's a scary thought sometimes that it's 11 years since Lostprophets' first album, Thefakesoundofprogress (although not in itself a ground-breaking album) provided the impetus for bands with a sense of melody and a volume from Wales to come to the fore. There are kids now - fans of The Blackout, Attack! Attack!, Bullet For My Valentine and Funeral For A Friend who were barely out of nappies when Thefakesound... came out. So nowadays Welsh rock is not the same joke it used to be, it's just there, taking up pages in the specialist press and making teenagers giddy. However, bands like FFAF and BFMV aren't the brand new young chargers they were; the pressure's always on to deliver, to find new things to say, and new ways of saying them. Welcome Home Armageddon achieves that aim, and puts Funeral back in the category of bands who matter artistically. Welcome Home Armageddon I might be oversimplifying things here, but here's a band who now sound as if they're totally happy with the work they're producing. It's been funded through PledgeMusic, it's self-released and it was recorded with their friend Romesh Dodangoda. Ironically, only when freed of the pressure that comes with working with large labels have they delivered something that would have met that pressure. It's light, heavy, dark and dexterous. There are some tracks here that hit with a force not seen since their début record, Casually Dressed And Deep In Conversation. Broken Foundation sounds like Eddie Van Halen has joined the band - but no, it's Kris Coombs-Roberts stepping up to provide a solo of some panache. Previous single Front Row Seats To The End Of The World is the song most closely linked to the glass hammer of their early work as Matt Davies-Kreye's melodic vocals scrap with Ryan Richards' bellows. Aftertaste is a fast-paced anthem while Spinning Over The Island reminds me Pennsylvania hardcore legends Boysetsfire. So many of the tracks here have an intent and a hunger. That they have achieved this on their fifth album is impressive. Instead of ennui and barely-concealed boredom Funeral deliver the most vital album of their career. They marry the melodic skills evinced in Casually Dressed... with a maturity that avoids the saccharine or the downright tedious. Owls is the distillation of this: as epic as they come but with no descent into bedwetting indie. There's a wide palette of colours employed on this album, and as it comes to a close with the introspective title track, it's clear that it really couldn't be by anyone who hasn't been through the mill, learning the lessons and honing their craft. It sounds clean but not clinical, forthright but not blunt, simple but not dumb. Funeral have delivered the album of their career.

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  7. Tuesday 8 March 2011 is the centenary of International Women's Day, and there are many events happening across Wales to mark the occasion. There are profiles of many great Welsh women on the BBC Wales Arts site for you to peruse. These range from figures from the visual arts such as Gwen John ...

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  8. Tuesday 8 March 2011 is a highly significant date. This is a global centenary, marking the 100th anniversary of the establishment of International Women's Day (IWD). This world-wide celebration of women's rights and, significantly, of the part that women play in society has been held since Ma...

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  9. This week's show is now available via the BBC iPlayer, and will be available to listen to any time between now and the start of the next programme: Check out Mr Healan's Soundcloud page for more examples of his electronic mastery, and the Chrome Kids blog for multifold insights into the fasci...

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  10. We're a nation obsessed by gardening and plants and I'm no different especially once springs arrives and the sun graces us with its presence, like it did this weekend for much of Wales. I popped down to my local garden centre twice this weekend, partly because it's a nice place to potter and partly because I can never make up my mind what to buy - so have to go home first, refer to the books and then go back! It's a tricky balance deciding what looks good and is practical for your garden and what is good for the environment and native wildlife you are hoping to attract. As you browse the plants in your local garden centre take a careful look at where those plants come from as we've got serious problems in Wales currently with invasive plants destroying native species and strangling the life out of some of our more delicate ecosystems. A new report by Plantlife lists 92 species that are on the brink of becoming invasive and lists 20 sites that are considered at risk in the UK - including Lydstep Headland in the Pembrokeshire National Park, the Great Orme and even Bala Lake. Plantlife is "calling for urgent action to be taken on plants assessed as having invasive potential should they escape 'over the garden wall', by conducting more detailed research to determine the level of threat they pose." Some people reading this might mutter to themselves that it's only a plant and they aren't really going to affect our day to day lives but they'd be wrong. Ecosystems are incredibly sensitive, it only takes one species to be taken out of the equation for the whole thing to be tipped on its head. In this case it could be a particular plant or tree taking over an area preventing other species from growing which has a knock on effect for everything else, from the insects right up to the birds, mammals and fish that feed on them. Invasive plants can also cause irritable rashes and burns to our skin and even increase the risk of flooding as drainage ditches and waterways become clogged up and let's face it - we could all do without any more flooding. The large-flowered waterweed - popular in fish tanks is one such species that is now causing problems in our waterways, particularly in Cornwall which isn't too far away. Rhododendron ponticum actually poisons the soil around it so other plants can't grow there and as a result, wildlife habitats diminish. New Zealand pigmy weed is thought to be directly responsible for the loss of a native fern in Suffolk and also, the internationally important - great crested newts which have disappeared from a pond in Dorset so this is a very real problem for our native wildlife. Anglers could also suffer as ponds and rivers become stagnated and devoid of fish life as oxygen levels drop. The problem is so serious that in some cases, conservationists are opting to fill in ponds as soon as pigmyweed is found, in order to save other nearby ponds and streams. "On the Great Orme, several non-native cotoneasters along with strawberry-tree, turkey oak and evergreen oak are invading areas of this internationally important limestone headland where nationally and locally threatened native plants occur." "At Lydstep Head in Pembrokeshire, populations of the vulnerable liverwort green blackwort have declined following encroachment by the small-leaved cotoneaster microphyllus agg." "The liverwort is now restricted to a single very narrow path on the site and removal of cotoneasteris required to prevent shading of the remaining colonies. Only a handful of sites in the UK support the liverwort." It's worth doing some reading up on this subject though, so you're aware of what to look out for at your local fishing spot or how to dispose of plants properly. Invasive species already cause enormous problems to our native plants and wildlife but also cost the British economy around £1.7 billion every year. And on a purely practical level it could mean you have to do less gardening as there is nothing more frustrating that digging up Japansese knotweed! Download the new Plantlife report. Read the invasive plants article on our website. Gull

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