1 Minute Animation

My animation,’Deptford Work and Play Co-op’, outlines the concept behind my proposal for a soon to be developed site at Convoy’s Wharf, Deptford. The proposal is intended to work incrementally over time, driven from the bottom up by local needs and desires, but potentially applicable to other sites as part of a wider strategic vision.

The aesthetic of the animation is intended to be appropriate to the message: that simple, economical gestures when creatively combined, can lead to much bigger, and more complex possibilities.

Storyboards and all drawings were created in Illustrator. I modelled the site first in Rhino, then perspective views were converted to the animation style in Illustrator.

Basic steps taken to create the animation:

  • Created a storyboard on separate Artboards in Illustrator and saved as jpeg’s to use later as visual guides for placement of drawn elements.
  • Saved groups of drawn elements from storyboards as ‘top layers’ in separate Illustrator documents. Imported elements into After Effects.
  • Created a simple narrative using short text layers at intervals throughout animation.
  • Used masks to uncover words and keyframed opacity levels to fade out. Also animated text along a path by selecting layer, drawing path with pen tool >Path Options> Mask 1> First Margin and setting start and end keyframes along timeline.
  • Used Null Objects to adjust scale and position on large groups of imported layers.
  • Manipulated and animated elements using the core Transform tools – Rotation, Position, Scale, Anchor Points and Opacity.
  • Used Masks to reveal and hide elements.
  • Created Mask Paths and pasted to ‘Position’ in Transform menu of selected layers, to move drawn elements along a path.
  • Created Pre-Comp’s at natural transition points between scenes to clean up layers panel and allow fading in/out between.
  • Checked Continuously Rasterize switch in all vector drawn layers and associated null objects to ensure clarity of lines when zoomed in.
  • Fine tuned movements using easy ease and manipulating bezier curves in the graph editor.
  • Animated boats and materials along mask paths, then rotated throughout movement to create slight rocking effect.
  • Modelled the site and imagined outline built creations using Rhino, saved perspective views and traced in Illustrator. Animated these views by separating drawn elements, staggering in-points along the time line and using animated masks to create stop-frame effect.
  • Created ‘mirrored’ motion effects, eg. when taking off Russian doll tops and replacing again, by cutting/copying animated path keyframes, right-clicking keyframes and choosing key frame assistant to time reverse.
  • Animated separate sections of dolls, then later moved them together as one by setting up null objects as controls and nesting them in a complex hierarchy, parenting layers using the pick whip tool.
  • Split layers to enable changes in animation of elements using more than one nul object.
  • Created shapes using pen tool and animated them using transform tools and paths.
  • Adjusted speed by using keyframe interpolation to convert intermediate keyframes into Roving Keyframes, dragging start/end points of action and used Time Stretch to adjust speed of pre-comps within composition.

I also experimented with adjustment layers and effects, in particular for transitions, but in the end chose not to use them as I felt they would take away from the stripped back aesthetic. Given some more time I would have loved to have created a simple sound track, including ambient sounds from the river, adventure playground and local workshops and integrated this with the movement of the animation. I decided to save this for another day rather than do a botched job. In the time available I am very pleased with how my skills have progressed in using After Effects and can’t wait to apply them to my next project, this time with the benefit of experience and hopefully with a little more finesse.

1 Minute Animation


When the tutor gave us an overview of Blender and it’s potential in 3D animation and virtual reality, at the beginning of the workshop, I mentally prepared myself for my most spectacular techno-fail yet. But, success! For the first time, I managed to follow the tasks from beginning to end and get the desired result…well nearly. Shame that I don’t think this will really be a program I will use much in the future, but my kids are going to LOVE it! And being open source, it’s free.

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The user interface – much like Rhino, with tools that are familiar from AutoCAD and Adobe applications. Very easy to use.

User preferences > tick Rotate around selection and zoom to mouse position > select with > left. save user settings.

Viewport shading > Solid = quick.

Blender render > Cycles Render – to view.

Properties window > Drag window so all buttons visible.

Tools: move, scale and rotate – Global.

View > Properties > Transform XYZ Co-ordinates.

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Creating a cube. Add > Mesh > Cube

Edit mode > Tool > Subdivide

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Move faces.

Tools > Shading > Smooth > Flat

Select object > Properties > Spanner icon > Add modifiers > generate subdivision surface > Catmull-Clark (?!)  > View > 3 > Apply….

Properties > Materials > Surface > Diffuse > BSDF > Preview. Surface > Colour/ Height/ . Normal > Bump > Voronoi Texture > Scale> add number + or -.

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Materials > New > Preview > Emission. Click on Lamp

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Baking: Select everything > Join – 1 Centre Point. Texture map > UV project > Space Bar > Smart > Smart UV project > OK.

3D view > UV Viewer + New (tick) Alpha

View > node editor > Materials (in properties) click through.

Add > texture > drag and drop .

Camera Icon > Bake untick clear > Bake

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File  > export > Wavefront.obj + bake.png (Windows application).


Viewing view a hand held device in the VR head set!





the-treeArcGIS has all the potential to be an exciting way to bring the hidden data of the landscape to vivid life, but to the untutored, has all the excitement of a giant filing cabinet. I’m sure once I have mastered it however, all its secrets will bring depth and clarity to my projects….

ArcGIS requires a seriously disciplined approach to filing and rigorous attention to detail. One false letter, number or wrong click and you are utterly lost. What fun!

Here are the basics:

  •  ArcGIS is a PC based software, which can be accessed only via Bootcamp for Mac users, it works in tandem with other softwares: Arc Catalogue (a place to preview, store and arrange data), Arc Map, Arc Scene and Arc Globe.
  •  All GIS stuff should be saved in one folder and each new foray into the program should have it’s own folder within that. The program relies on links rather like In-Design.
  • You should think carefully about what data you need and over what area. Aim for the least possible – too much data= too slow. Data is generally obtained from Digimap.
  •  View shed analysis button can help you to decide how much data you need by analyzing the ‘zone of visual influence’ ZVI of a given sight.
  • In Digimap > Search > check Select data > Add to basket > File format ‘Geo-database’ (least work) or Shape file (next best).
  •  Shopping list: OS Terrain 5 DTM (contours every 5m, land + height data); Mastermap Topography and Building Heights. ; Historic (Data) download > Theme = National Grid > Formatt = TIFF. Files are Geo-referenced and come with extra files which travel with the Data or TIFF – TFW, JPW = World Co-ordinates. DO NOT DELETE these files!
  •  In Arc Catalogue > Open folder > Extract.
  • File > Connect to folder > Choose folder (navigate to filed data). Right-click on your GIS folder > New > New Personal Database (.gdb)
  • Data download > Topo > click once on mastermap topo.gdb > PREVIEW to see elements.


  • Data can be previewed in Geography (above) or as a table. A useful tool is the Identify ‘i’ button > click on polygons/lines to access Info Table which lists: Version; Attributes; Dates; Themes; Descriptive term; Shape; Shape area; Perimeter; Make.
  • Right-click on my geo database > Import > Feature Class (Single) > Input feature > Drag and drop your area (or whatever) > name it > ok.importing-feature-class


  • Open ArcMAP from toolbar in Arc Catalogue > My templates ‘Balnk Map’ allows you to open layers. Drag and drop data from right hand side (Properties).


  • Toolbox > Spatial analysis tools > surface > contour > Input Raster > (TQ/DTMS) > Output polyline features > Click on destination databse > Name eg contour1.slayer-description

Layer description.


Selecting features.


Print preview


3D terrain.







Master Po: Close your eyes. What do you hear?

Young Caine: I hear the water, I hear the birds.
Po: Do you hear your own heartbeat?
Caine: No.
Po: Do you hear the grasshopper which is at your feet?
Caine: Old man, how is it that you hear these things?
Po: Young man, how is it that you do not?

This was the ‘Grasshopper’ I was brought up on, from the 1970’s Tv series ‘Kung Fu’. I certainly sympathise with the young man here. I’m afraid the subtleties of Grasshopper the software are also lost on me.


Grasshopper allows you to design ‘easy to use’ algorithms for detailed editing of modelled forms, without the need for scripting and is used as a plug-in for Rhino.


Algorithms take data, in the form of inputs which are transformed into visual information or output. The flow charts represent a step-by-step process to be followed.




I can grasp the concept, but unfortunately feel that this kind of fine tuning might not be appropriate for my way of working or indeed, level of skill, but I’ll certainly bear it in mind if I have some kind of techno revelation/revolution.



So, Rhino is a complicated and allegedly ‘intuitive’ 3D modelling program, that, I am assured, has some future relevance to the workflow of the landscape architect….

Once again, in the cut and thrust of the warp speed digital workshop, I was rapidly left way behind. Luckily, i have since had the chance to explore the program alone and have come to at least understand the basics of it’s application to modelling cities and landscapes. To my great surprise I have also come to kind of enjoy working in Rhino…

Here’s what I’ve learned:

Rhino works with a system of ‘Nurbs’, as opposed to the mesh of AutoCAD and Sketch up, and is made up of a series of points which mathematically describe 3D objects using surfaces. A bit like the difference between Vectors and Rasters.

The interface is fairly self-explanatory and easy to use. There are 4 views which help you navigate around 3D space, which can be opened alone or viewed together, and a multitude of tools for manipulating objects. Objects can be grouped by colour in layers that can be made active, hidden or locked, as in AutoCAD.

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The way objects are viewed can be changed in the Display tab and we’re advised to use ‘Ghosted’ which is easier on the graphics card than ‘Shaded’, or ‘Wireframe’ as the super light option.

Rhino uses commands in the same way as AutoCAD, but the mac interface, which I use, doesn’t prompt actions as much as it might in windows and relies more on the user knowing what to do…which I don’t.

You can create objects from scratch in Rhino, but in the case of landscape architecture, an original, 2D, geo-referenced, or at least measured plan .dwg drawing will be used as a starting point. It is good to ‘clean’ this up, by hiding or deleting unwanted data and lines before opening in Rhino to make it ‘lighter’ and less cumbersome to use. In the case of complicated Digimap files, layers can be grouped together to simplify the file.

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When you open a new document, especially a digimap sourced file, you should check the units: Document Properties > Units > Metres. You might also want to check the dimensions of a known object e.g. building: Command bar > Distance > click on start and end point.

It’s important to be aware of which Snap tools are selected or not when working with most tools, as this can lead to ‘Bad Geometry’, where points and lines don’t meet up where you mean them to.

Lines are confusingly called ‘Curves’ in Rhino. These can be extruded to form surfaces and solids (but apparently, nothing is really solid in Rhino)….Dimensions for transformations can be typed in when prompted, or done by eye using the cursor and snapping to known points.

Useful tools and commands

ExtrudeCrv – Creates a 3D shape using a 2D line as a base.

Boolean tools – Allows you to create new or cut into objects, using other objects.

Cap – Puts a roof on hollow surfaces.

Join, Trim, Split, Explode – are useful for working accurately with and editing ‘curves’.

Offset and array – are useful for creating multiples and copies of existing curves.

Offset with thickness and MakeHole – are useful for punching through doors and windows.

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Loft – can be used to create an organic surface across open curves. When control points are switched on these can then be edited by clicking and dragging to change the profile of the surface. The more control points the more complex the shape, but also the harder it is to edit.


This was the list of things we were supposed to be learning. Sadly I didn’t grasp many of these at the time, so blisteringly fast was the presentation.

When the tutor said C-Plane this is what I saw in my minds eye:


I’ve since discovered of course that C-Planes, or construction planes are extremely useful when it comes to modelling complex shapes or cityscapes. The construction plane, where the XY axis sits can be moved to the face of any object, in any orientation so that all drawing happens in relation to that new plane. This C-Plane can be saved for later use and interchanged with other saved c-planes.

For what it’s worth, this was the thing I was supposed to make in the workshop (here’s a layer the tutor made earlier):

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But I did manage to make this basic model of Watergate Street in Deptford a week later, so it’s not all bad:

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In the beginning – After Effects

Here follows the story of my journey through the world of advanced landscape representation. Beginning in the first instance with a series of digital design workshops at the University of Greenwich.


It became apparent within the first few minutes of the first workshop in Adobe After Effects that I was massively out of my depth, definitely hard of hearing and possibly in need of glasses. The tutor sailed at breathtaking speed through a process that would normally take me days, if not weeks, to understand and I was completely lost within moments. However, as I stuttered and stumbled through the instructions (those that I heard anyway) I had the creeping feeling that this program, that seems so counterintuitive now, might actually be the perfect way for me to express my designs. I believe landscape design is best realised through process, rather than a fixed vision, and a time-based media is the ideal medium to express and communicate 4D processes and operations. So what follows is a slightly extended blog post on After Effects, designed to help me get to grips with my potential future workflow…The other posts, i can assure you, won’t be so long.

Here’s what we covered (and what I have since learned from on-line tutorials):

What After Effects is for.

Sometimes called ‘Photoshop through time’, After Effects is a way to bring together various ‘dynamic media’ – video, audio, layered photographic images, path based graphics and typography – to edit, compose and animate them for use as motion graphics, animation or video special effects, on the web or as DVD.


  • Determine what you will produce in the end – your output goal. Specifications of the media your work is aimed for (like frame size, frame rate and file format), as well as the overall concept, will determine decisions you make along the way.
  • Assemble your source materials, in the right formats and import into the Project File. Use Adobe Bridge to access the materials if possible.
  • Create a Composition, your working 4D file.
  • Arrange and rearrange the layers of your composition through time and in relation to one another (as in Photoshop).
  • Transform, enhance and distort layers by adding effects.
  • Change the attributes of layers over time using key frames. Animate them, make them appear and fade away, intensify and diminish effects.
  • Structure and group layers e.g. using parenting and composition nesting (pre-comps) to speed up work.
  • Preview work.
  • Render composition to a single, un-editable, stand alone file in chosen format.

The Workspace or Interface


Creating a composition

Choose Composition>New Composition… In Preset choose: PAL D1/DV WIDESCREEN SQUARE PIXEL in drop-down menu. In duration set how long you want the composition to be (Hrs:Mins:Secs:Milisecs). >OK.

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Alternatively click and drag a layer from project folder to the composition icon at the bottom of the project window. Or, to import an external file to create a composition, double-click in the bottom area of the project window and navigate to your file. In Import As box at the bottom of the pop-up import window, choose Composition – Retain Layer Sizes>Import

In the workshop we imported a photoshop document and chose ‘Composition – retain layer sizes’ in the drop down ‘Import As’ menu.


Layers work in the same way as they do in photoshop and control the vertical hierarchy of elements in the composition, like pieces of tracing paper on top of each other.

A layer property is a visual or audio characteristic, which can be assigned different values. Each layer has the option within it to Transform properties using key frames (and also to apply effects and control audio if there are any). Click on the triangle in the desired layer line in the composition panel to expand the options.

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In theTransform drop down list you can control the position, orientation, opacity and scale of a layer. These factors can be adjusted numerically by dragging the hand icon back and forth sideways across the numbers to the right. To make these transformations over time see key frames below.

Key Frames

Key frames are the points at which layer attributes change along the timeline and allow you to animate layers.

Move the current time indicator to where you want the action to start. Click on the stop watch of the property you want to animate. Move the time indicator to where you want the action to end, then change the values of the property. As soon as any change is made a new key frame is created in the new position along the timeline. Whenever the time indicator is positioned over a key frame any value adjustments to the property layer will be made to THAT key frame.

An animation is made whenever you have 2 or more key frames on a layer along the timeline with different values. AE interpolates between the different values and spreads the incremental change evenly across the frames in between each key frame. This is called an ‘Animation Path’

Key frames can be dragged along the timeline to change timings, alone, or together with other selected key frames.

In the workshop we had to do something to an orange ball, but i was too panic stricken to write it down and can’t remember. Since then however I have managed to make the ball move around the composition, whilst twirling around at different speeds and pulsating…

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I was, frankly, amazed and delighted by how quick and easy it was.

I changed the value of properties (e.g. scale, rotation, position) by either sliding the numeric values up and down in the composition layers panel, typing in specific values or by dragging and manipulating objects in the composition viewer.

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I made one of the light beams search from side to side by changing it’s anchor point to it’s base, then rotating about that point. I selected the key frames > Animation > Key Frame Assistant > Easy ease, to make the transitions between movements seem more natural. I also made a car appear to drive away down the street by adjusting it’s scale and position in the graph editor.


In the workshop I did actually manage to create a composition based on a photoshop layered version of an Andreas Gursky image of a supermarket. Unfortunately I can’t remember what we did or how we did it, except for it had something to do with cameras and 3D space. We somehow arranged layers of diminishing size on a z axis and used a camera to create the illusion of travelling into the image across the layers. We also narrowed the depth of field to accentuate this effect.

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To start the process of turning the composition into a quicktime movie in the right format: Click on the desired composition at the top of the layers panel > Composition > Add to render queue.

In the render queue window > Best settings I left resolution at Full, but changed the duration of the movie, to leave out the end of the comp that I didn’t want > OK. In Output Module Settings > Lossless > Format Options, I chose, H.264  and also switched off the audio > OK.

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In Output Module > Output to, I gave the file a name and checked it’s destination. Then clicked on RENDER and Hey presto! I got me an animated movie.

In the beginning – After Effects