Friday 20 May 2011

...from a dark room

I am writing from my home for the present few weeks; it is small-ish room painted black with hot, bright lights and is full of small buildings, interiors, props and large painted backdrops. The way the production process works allows the model making to be staggered with the shoot as there is so much to physically make. I thought it was interesting to hear, in a video I watched recently about the making of Coraline, writer Neil Gaiman musing on the fact that everything in a stop-motion film is made from scratch. I suppose I'm so embroiled in this world and the process of three dimensional animation that it's not something I even think about anymore, I just take it for granted.

A look at the villa kitchen in progress

Kate Middleton admires our freshly undercoated shutters drying in the sun

This is especially so for our film as, although it may be short, it features several locations and all of these sets have to be made quickly in a very short timescale. In the film Ivor moves from one place to another as his paranoia gets a hold of him and I wanted to place the audience geographically by having establishing shots introducing each location and Ivor's new abode. These establishing shots luckily do not feature Ivor so they were able to be made on a miniature scale, following the same construction techniques as all the other sets.

One of the establishing shots from the storyboard

Emma-Rose working on a chair for Ivor

Emma-Rose is in the workshop finishing the final set for the films climax, I won't give too much away but it involves a lot of tiny paper flowers. I have moved into the studio on campus; a dark secluded room where daylight seldom streams through the blacked-out windows. The models for the film are piled up around the edges and I have the stage in the centre of the room. Here's a look at the set-up.

Me on set (generally looking worried about something)

Following with the film's overall aesthetic of paper and cardboard, parts of the puppet are made from paper. He has paper eyes that can be replaced to make him blink, similar to the old technique used on programmes such as Ivor Wood's Postman Pat. Actually much of the methodologies we are engaging with are old techniques that I'm trying to synthesize with digital technologies to tell the story in an engaging and entertaining way. The only problem with tiny black eyes is that sometimes, when you're trying to pick them off the puppets face with the end of a surgical scalpel, they fall onto the large black floor... and you never see them again. The moustaches are a little easier to keep an eye on at 11mm. I was thinking I could scale these up and start a business for men with upper-lip hair loss.

Replacement moustaches

Kit Wilson is playing around with musical developments for the score as we shoot. It's a fairly industrious period at the moment, everything seems to be happening at once. We're modelmaking, lighting, shooting, editing and beginning some post-production simultaneously to maximise our time. We're shooting the film in full high definition which brings challenges of it's own. I'm also shooting at 24 frames per second as opposed to 12 which I'm used to. I wanted to really push the production values of this film for a more polished finish. From the design and colour, to the lighting, the movement and animation, even the rig removal and special effects far surpass anything I have done before.

Flowers and flower pots ready for action

We're shooting using Jamie Caliri's Dragon Stop Motion Animation software which has been a dream. It is a deceptively simple program with all the features you might need. I always think of the process of shooting stop-motion animation as a kind of alchemy; there are so many elements to balance and think about and 'Dragon' is a very stable, instinctive programme that helps you manage everything on set.

Me setting up a shot

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