YenraB Cornichons a.k.a Barney Abrahams is a very patient and talented animator. We’d see glimpses of his work on Insta, he’d upload an animation of a skate clip and you’d instantly be able to recognise which clip it was based on. We decided to hit him up to see if he’d be down to animate a full part, as previously he had only ever produced short clips, due to the time consuming nature of his ‘Chibi-simulacrum’ style of animation. Barney was down and decided to rework Nick Jensen’s full part from ‘First Broadcast‘ filmed by Dan Magee and Adam Mondon, which you can watch in full below. It’s evident how much time and effort he has put in to reproduce this part in phenomenal detail, even down to the finest touches such as subtle body movements, recognisable background landmarks, b-roll clips and more. We’re stoked to present this one to you all and hope you enjoy it. Big thanks to Barney for doing such a sterling job. Tom Pickard interviewed Barney Abrahams on his inspiration, his animation process, his characters and why he chose this particular iconic part.
So what’s your name and how old are you?
Barney Abrahams, 28.
Where are you based?
I live in Borehamwood, which is like a little place on the edge of London, kind of just within the M25, but not London. I’m close to Watford, the concrete park is my local, there is a skate park in Borehamwood but has rabid scooter kids. We go on trips to London sometimes but mainly skate around here.
Do you have a local crew?
Yeah, so there’s Kj, Slew, Elliot Hewgill, James Kelly, Alex Hatfield, Robin Lambert and Eoghann Swann. A few of them have moved out of the area now, James moved to Leeds recently, Alex is on Yardsale now, so he’s starting to do bigger things, which is good for him, he’s sick!
So what exactly is ‘YenraB Cornichons’?
It’s just my name backwards. I just couldn’t think of a name. So I put Barney backwards and then Cornichons is just because I like those little mini gherkins. Cornichons are the little mini gherkins you can buy, they’re well nice, they have them in a Pret sandwich, it’s like a ham and cornichon sandwich, so good! It was just a name for the sake of a name and that’s the first word that came to my head.
When did you first start playing around with sketches and animation?
I’ve always been drawing and doing random shit like that, but it wasn’t until about three years ago that I started doing 3D animation. I was at uni studying animation, so I just thought, yeah, let’s pick it up, I always like to try new things. I studied at LCC (London College of Communication) at Elephant & Castle. I finished a few years ago and then worked as a motion graphics designer for an advertising agency for a bit but then got made redundant because of Covid, so now I’m just kind of doing personal projects. I worked at the agency for a year and a half. I was working on animated film posters, the kind that you see in a tube station where it’s got like, an explosion and text coming out of it.
So when did you first bring skateboarding into your animations?
Well, from the beginning really, that’s the first thing that I tried to rig in 3D software. Skating is such a specific thing, and because I know what it looks like, it’s quite hard to animate correctly. You see people animate skateboarding sometimes and it looks wrong and you know it looks wrong, so I was always really strict with it in that regards. So I think it was a good concept for me because I actually know what it’s supposed to look like, so there’s almost like a standard that I’ve built for myself.
Did it all start from sketching and building from that?
Yeah, so I’d see a lot of people rotoscoping skate footage, where they were tracing every single frame, frame by frame, whereas I was looking through each frame but not specifically tracing exactly, more making sketches of each frame. Then I realised that if I make it in 3D, it’s so much easier because I have so much more control over each individual frame, so it was a natural progression.
Would you say that there is a level of interpretation then?
Usually I’ll look at the clip and the skater’s movements and I’ll just push everything a bit further. Like someone flicks their foot and I try and push it a little bit further so it flicks more and kind of exaggerate the motion just for the sake of artistry I guess, and it looks more fun.
Maybe you have to make those movements one hundred and twenty percent instead of one hundred percent to make them actually be readable by the viewer, otherwise it all gets lost.
Yeah, definitely, and to add the weight to it as well because like, animation is nothing, it’s just a pixel, isn’t it, so it’s inherently floaty. When there is a slam, it has to be harder and the stomps have to be more, just so you can kind of feel it and it’s grounded in some kind of physics.
How would you describe the style of your animation?
It’s like a Chibi-simulacrum style miniature toy character with realistic movements! I don’t even know man, that’s for someone else to answer, I just do it.
What software or programs do you use?
I rig and animate in ‘Cinema 4D’, render in ‘Blender’ and then I bring into ‘After Effects’ to add background, color correction and apply effects. In Cinema 4D you can make shapes and then make the shapes move however you want them to move, you can build entire landscapes, you could make an animated feature film if you wanted.
What initially made you interested in design and animation?
Generally sketching and always watching cartoons. It’s such an obvious thing, but Simpsons is the only reason that I wanted to do any kind of animation, and then once my foot was in the animation door, it was like, OK, I want to try this instead or I want to do this, that was the thing that got me hooked from a when I was a kid.
How has lockdown been for you? Has it pushed you creatively?
Yeah, definitely. I got furloughed in April, so I had like seven months being on furlough and just getting full pay and sitting at home, so I learnt how to make video games, learnt so much more 3D stuff and was just working every day doing my own stuff, I’ve kind of learnt shitloads in this time, I’ve used the time quite productively I’d say.
So skate videos! Did you or do you buy skate videos? In what context do you watch skate videos these days?
Nowadays, it’s just like scrolling through Instagram and seeing clips and never watching the full videos unless it’s very specific, something that I’m interested in. But there’s only a few that applies to. I mean, I like buying DVDs, I used to love buying a skate DVD actually, I haven’t bought one in ages but, just going to Slam and asking what they have, see what’s new. I remember being excited when The Eleventh Hour and Vase came out, just going to Slam after uni and getting those, that was well exciting.
Did you find yourself watching the videos in more detail? Did you take notice of skater’s movements and styles?
I never consciously went that far. It’s not until recently really, like I only started thinking ‘shit – I’m going to animate some skateboarding’ in the last year or so. Since then I’ve really started looking at videos again, there’s certain videos I don’t like, like there’s not that extra twenty percent in their movements, or there’s not something unique about someone’s movements that you can really tell it’s them.
What were your initial thoughts or concerns when you decided to make a full section?
At first, I was like, this is long! But then I realised that it’s probably good for me to start a project, make myself a deadline and actually finish it, because then I have to finish it. Anyone that makes anything, knows that they’ve just got things lying about on their computer that are ten percent done or eighty percent done but never finished, so it’s just nice to actually finish something and then it’s done and gone. I initially estimated that it would take three months to animate the section, but when I got going, I just wanted to do it as fast as possible. I got really into it, like waking up at nine o’clock and actually having a schedule, I’m going to work to this time, do this amount. It’s just nice to have some structure.
How did you decide on Jensen’s 2001 First Broadcast section?
At first, I was trying to look for short parts that had no lines in them, because animating lines is just horrible. There’s something about them that makes them really hard to animate. The camera is constantly moving and working out the distance that people are travelling is quite hard and trying to get the speed right of how fast they are going and how far they’re going. In the end, I went onto Google Earth and screenshot’d the spots and then made them in 3D, then using the scale, I would make sure that all of the dimensions and distances were right by using the same scale. Then I made the character to a scale that I thought a human would be. Sorry that didn’t answer your question at all! So I had a list of a few parts that I thought would be cool to animate; Chris Jones’ Eleventh Hour part, Mike Arnold’s Lloyds part or an old Brady part, but the thing with the Jensen part is, he kind of looks like a bit of a cartoon character when he was a kid, he’s got a big head and like, long legs, he’s actually a really cute little kid! Ha ha!
I suppose that first clip kind of says that in a way. He’s like a little raggedy character.
Yeah, that clip makes me a bit sad to be honest, that geezer’s a cunt. How old was Jensen then, like 13, 14? A grown man saying that to him, it’s grim.
Why those parts? Are they some of your favorites or were you purely looking at them from an animation point of view?
Both. Parts that I enjoyed but would also translate well into animation. But I think the other parts are probably too new to do. The Jensen part works because it’s so old that it’s like, recontextualizing it twenty years later (instead of 5 years later).
Yes, there is this level of interpretation when it crosses over into animation. Like, I’m watching something that I know in every detail, but I am experiencing it in a new way, it’s interesting. What was the working process? Was it chronological from start to finish?
I did the lines first because they’re a pain in the arse and I knew I’d have to go back to them and fix them. So got them all out of the way and then kind of just worked from longest clip to shortest clip, because, if you do the fun ones first, then you’re never going to do the boring ones. The whole first minute, it’s just, horrible. I don’t know what it is about it, but it was just really hard to do. But then it gets into the quick bangers and it’s so much easier, I guess because you’re not seeing those clips for as long, so they look better. But the line at Moorgate, with the switch backside flip and then the 5.0, that was very hard because of the turn after the switch backside flip, I don’t know why, but that turn was so awkward to animate.
When you talk about lines, to me, it’s not only about the distance of the skater, but it’s also that the whole backdrop is constantly changing, the perspective is changing in every frame. I suppose you can’t take anything for granted, every single frame must be changing, that must be painstaking?
Yep! But the end’s well fun, like the last minute and a half was really fun to do.
Was there any time spent actually just studying the clips before you actually started animating?
No, not before. I would make the animated clip and then watch that with the footage side by side, next to each other and then study it. I’d do a rough first pass basically, and then I would be like, ok, that needs to change, the camera doesn’t tilt up there, it tilts down….
Regarding background features within the clips, such as the spot’s characteristics, how did you decide what to include and what not to include?
Basically, I included any objects that he touches or interacts with, or just generally stand out. There’s a line at the courtyard part of the Shell Centre and I included the backdrop of a big building and the only reason that’s there, is for the sake of perspective, so you can see something else going on in the background. Like the London Eye gives context to where we are, so I only really added things that I think are iconic about the place or something that he interacts with.
Looking back on it, do you have a favorite clip from the section?
I like all of the night stuff. It’s like two clips at SOAS; nosegrind revert, front board shuv, then a front board on a handrail and then a backside flip on a hip, I like that whole bit, it just looks nice, that’s the bit I watch when I’m like, yeah, I’m pretty proud of myself.
The back smith at SOAS on the green container is amazing. Obviously it’s a slow motion clip, but that’s the clip that caught my nostalgia. It’s interesting which clips will stand out for each viewer, you know, I mean, everyone has a different interpretation of a skate section, like what sticks in their head and what doesn’t. How do you feel now that it’s done?
Relieved, and, like, just kind of happy that I’ve done something! There’s so many things on my computer that I think are really good, but I just need to finish them and it’s just annoying that I haven’t. But maybe this will inspire me, or make me think, ‘yeah, I should render that other piece of shit’.
Are there any skate related artists that you’re into?
I obviously like James Jarvis, he’s amazing, he made an MTV ident with his little character skating and it’s probably the nicest piece of skate animation that has ever been made. I found one of his books in a charity shop ages ago and I just became obsessed with drawing all characters as a ball and they’re fun to animate because it takes animation down to the bare bones. It kind of makes you focus on the motion that’s happening, but then I felt like I was copying it too much, so I progressed into just, big head, kind of chibby characters. I also like Daniel Clarke (read his Vague interview here), I bought his new book the other day, it’s really nice, like, abstract color blocks and shapes, it’s really cool.
And general artists that you like?
Again, this is one of those things where it’s not one specific person. I don’t know who these people are, or what work they do, but I just see them on Instagram and like their work, and just kind of keep a reference of it, you know where you can save things, I just save things and look at them before I’m about to do something. In terms of animation, in TV animation there’s not much going on, it’s just kind of, characters talking to one other. There is this show called ‘Pocoyo’, I think it’s Norwegian or something, it’s similar to my animation, it’s like a barren wastelands with these little characters, which move in the most simple ways. But that’s actually the thing that my characters are mainly based on, just this little kid’s show, that’s made for babies, but it’s amazing, it’s got this beautiful style of animation. That’s my biggest inspiration ever, actually, that show.
What are your plans now then?
If I’m honest, I’m kind of happy to go back to the same kind of job I had before and just do my own stuff in my spare time and if that ever comes to anything, then so be it.
Well, congratulations mate and thanks for chatting.
YenraB Remix – Nick Jensen – First Broadcast