Storyboard + Previs

After putting ideas together as a quick storyboard, I went straight ahead to put the piece together as an initial previs, particularly in the light that it would be difficult to convey the clear camera movement that is needed within a 2D animatic. As such, we are presented with a moment of flight with Volan and his island as he searches and soars the skies.

The piece relies much on tone and atmosphere which is slowly built up with the reveal of the island and the openness of sound. These initial sound effects and camera movements will undoubtedly go through further refinements, but they begin to capture the right tonality of the piece that I am trying to convey.

Building a quick mockup of the home and island has helped to resolve and generate new ideas to the piece and designs as a whole. I am eager to resolve these elements with the character of Volan being of next priority.

Character 'Volan' Initial Ideas #01

Initial ideas with the character design of Volan. As before: My initial thoughts for Volan is to be of a 'coming of age' male, reflective of a pioneering spirit. Originally a farmer, he had a variety of tools and equipment at his disposal to adapt to the flooded world. But now alone and isolated, he roams the skies in search for land and signs of any other survivors.

I've experimented with a range of different ideas to help determine the best direction to pursue. It's a bit tricky finding the right level of stylisation, as in some cases, it gives a strong youthful impression which will need to be balanced.

They are by no means final designs with their clothing or faces, but a manner of getting ideas down on paper and start determining elements that work. As such, I've picked out the ideas that seem to work the most. It feels that these ideas work better with their stylised proportions and various details with straps and pouches.

With this in mind, I will try to combine the successful elements of these initial ideas to progress with more resolved designs.

Home/Island Ideas #02

Some more development with Volan's home and island. These early sketches attempt to capture the idea that the home has been adapted and modified to expand the space of the house and power the flight of the island.

While the earlier idea of having a ring of propellers built into the island remains an interesting concept, I felt it would be too impractical to the island as a whole.

From the two more refined designs below, I am leaning towards the designs found in house B, with its practicality and overall form. A small number of gears protrude from the left side of the house to power the propeller below, where Volan can use the roof balcony to search the skies.

Applying the house design to the island below, the large balloons maintain the lift of the island where the propeller and rudders provide the forward momentum, turning and pitch capabilities respectively. The island is further shaped in an arch fashion so as to further amplify the force of wind through the propeller. Some ideas to items and props around the island include; an area for growing vegetables, fishing rods on the edge of the island, an array of buckets to collect rain water, as well as crates and barrels for storing food and materials.

To wrap up this post, a point of reference to the eccentric nature of the house and island is similar to the themes found in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968). Check out the video below with the opening scene of the house, and around the 3:30 mark with the variety of quirky contraptions.

Home/Island Ideas #01

Exploring initial ideas of Volan's home and island with some rough sketches. These early sketches experiment with the idea that Volan's home has been adapted and modified to expand the space of the house, as well as initial musings into the system of flight of the island.

Including ideas for the island, designs A - D (see image below) explore some initial ideas with propellers, hot air balloons and sails. In the case of design D, the island itself is shaped to work in more unison with the propellers, accommodating the blades below. Idea E uses the hot air balloons underneath the island to propel the island upwards, where idea F uses multiple levels of helicopter type rotation built into the island for flight.

One of the main challenges to solve is whether the house is a main component of flight i.e. literally accommodating a sail or hot air balloons in its design, or is rather a component that powers the system of flight being more apparent around the island. Essentially, it may be a case of treating the designs of the house and the island very closely together, or perhaps as one, in order to achieve a coherent design as a whole.

Isle of Cirrus Project Proposal

The project idea arranged as formal project proposal document. I've decided to run with the project title Isle of Cirrus and the protagonist name Volan for now - Cirrus being a type of cloud and Volan meaning in latin 'to fly'.

Isle of Cirrus Project Proposal

Flying Machines and Wind Turbines

I've been looking into various flying technologies and possible energy sources that may power the flight of the island. While the design does not have to be necessarily possible in the real world, it is worth exploring in order to ensure a degree of believability to the design as a whole.

Initial thoughts include a combination of two systems running through the house and island, one providing lift (such as hot air balloon) and the other forward momentum (propellers). Ideally, the effect will not be something too sci-fi or necessarily steampunk, but rather to capture a whimsical element to the design as a whole.

It is worth noting that the flying island is meant to be designed and built by the protagonist, leading to a self assembled aesthetic.

A common theme for flight and renewable energy is with propellers and turbines to harness the power of the wind. As such, these could be present around the house/island as a means to collect energy or provide lift.

A typical turbine with a straightforward ring that more than doubles the output power.

Spiral turbine design

A helix type design

A turbine that floats in the air to maximise the air flow at higher altitudes. More details on this intriguing design can be found here and here.

Interesting shape of turbine that can turn in the wind

As well as a more lo-fi version

Integrating the flight system with the house and island as a whole will be a key factor in this project, and as such I will be making sure to dedicate time to this aspect to ensure that the design is right.

The Protagonist + Home

Here is my current line of thinking into the background and context of the protagonist and his home, which will help fuel the designs as a whole.


My initial thoughts for the protagonist is to be of a 'coming of age' male, reflective of a pioneering spirit. Originally a farmer, he had a variety of tools and equipment at his disposal to adapt to the flooded world. But now alone and isolated, he roams the skies in search for land and signs of any other survivors. Additional thoughts for details include props such as a telescope to pouches.


The home of the protagonist has been adapted to power and maintain the flight of the island. With limited space on the island, the modifications also serve to maximise the space of the house. As such, initial impressions of the house are of a quirky design with a variety of different materials the protagonist would have managed to collect in his travels.

Identifying the system which keeps the house and island in flight will be key to the logic and design of the home as a whole, which I'll dedicate and post to later with more research.

Idea Development

After some welcome feedback, the scope of the project has developed in a way that should be much more manageable.

The idea and context of the piece persists, where now the final outcome of the project will be to create a short scene of the animation (akin to an animated still image) capturing a moment of flight of the protagonist and his island. This may involve a single camera movement slowly revealing elements of the animated image to suggest the narrative of the piece.

This breaks down the main challenges of the project to:
  • Character
  • Environment Home/Island
  • Animation of flight (secondary objects)

In this way, the narrative is found within the image, rather than told as a grand structured narrative as a whole. More time can also be dedicated into strengthening the design and the animation as a whole.

I'll organise a formal project proposal soon enough, while continuing to get things moving with research and references.

Final Major Project Idea

After much thought, here is my idea for the final major project. It's still in development so some details may need some more thought.

An animated short of roughly 2 minutes length (subject to change).

Context Only
The world has been flooded as sea levels have risen, land has become a rare commodity. Existing parts of land are now 'flown' by individuals. These flying/floating islands are powered by a whimsical element that is yet to be determined, but could be wind, steam or a unique material.

For the actual animation, we will only be focusing on a main protagonist and his own flying island, containing his home that has been expanded with an array of scrounged materials.

The Animated Short
The animation will begin by slowly revealing the flying island of a main protagonist, quite high in the air with the sea being partially visible below. Shots introducing the home and the contraption that is keeping it in flight will be key in setting the tone and atmosphere of the piece.

The protagonist is outside the home or on top of highest point, searching through binoculars/telescope for more land to gather more resources and make contact with others.

Eventually the protagonist catches a glimpse of another flying piece of land, and adjusts the flight path of his own island accordingly.

However a storm approaches from behind, catching the protagonist off guard. The protagonist's island is engulfed by the storm and is battered by the elements with a fatal blow.

We return to find the protagonist floating on the sea amongst the wreckage of his home and island. As the water level continues to rise, the protagonist seems resigned to his fate as there is nothing he can do. When all seems lost...

Option 1
...A ladder drops down above the protagonist, leading to the island he spotted earlier flying above to rescue him. A silhouetted figure waves and awaits up top.

Option 2
...A submarine type vehicle rises from the water, with the hatch opening to rescue the protagonist and revealing another way humans have adapted to survive the flooded world.

As the protagonist meets his saviour, a much larger island (or underwater world) is revealed with a thriving community, suggesting that there is hope for humanity yet.

The main challenges of this project will include:
  • Protagonist Character (Rigging, animation etc)
  • Environment of the protagonists Home, Island and props
  • Possible environment of saviour's island/community
  • Matte Paintings of the surrounding sky/sea
  • Secondary animation of props etc.

Atmospheric and sound effects only
-Possible music played from a radio speaker prop. Would crackle and cut off upon arrival of storm.

Visual Style Inspiration/References
The presentation of the animation would be of a bold visual style with more saturated tones as seen in the below image. This will help reinforce the whimsical concept of the piece.

This idea will fulfil my ambitions of producing an animated short, relying much more on setting the tone and atmosphere of the piece with strong visual design. Research, sketches, thumbnails and storyboards will be to follow if all is in order.

Any thoughts and feedback is welcome.