I tried to animate one section fully and then move onto the next but somehow I keep editing them all. I started and finished with the acrylic on paper section. I kept changing the transition between live action and acrylic but eventually ended up mixing the two in a way inspired by the work of Helena Almeida.
Painting Orkey Chang’s frames
Mixing both mediums – involving using a fake mask in the live action, rotoscoping, and tracing leaves
Lovely little paper curls that I ended up with – could be of use somehow in stop motion?
Since the pixilation section of the film is based on daydreaming, I tried to be a bit loose with the planning for it but the first rendition didn’t look like much except a guy that liked flowers. I redid it and rethought it after looking through loads of books on dadaism and using that aesthetic to represent daydreaming. I made a shot list as with the live action which helped a lot on the day. I found it a bit easier than directing live action as the things you are telling the actors are more straightforward and having to do with placements of their limbs as opposed to their moods. At one point it was a bit tricky so I would direct the actor’s legs while the cameraman would direct the actor’s torso and that worked out well.
To represent his head being elsewhere, I printed out the whole section, displaced his head before his body a few frames and then glued the frames back together with a satisfying tear across the middle. By punching the animation holes in the top and the bottom of the pages, it allowed me to line all the frames up afterwards. I hope to do some more pixilation in the future..
Of all the sections, I most stuck to my animatic for the section of the character with anxiety. The idea was simple: have her sinking through three different levels of the ocean, with the animals around her getting progressively more intimidating. Originally, I was going to animate it with oil on glass but I when I tried it, I knew instantly it wasn’t right. It felt like I was animating with toothpaste. It didn’t fit the feeling and mood of the section. Animating it in the familiar watercolour matched the underwater theme as well as the fragility of the character. It also allowed me to play with the timing and layout much more in the edits as opposed to having to have it all figured out prior. Haemin Ko helped me out with the watercolour which was very helpful and I have learned how best to direct others at this point which is good. I tend to overcomplicate things but I realised I don’t need to overcomplicate it for others; I just need to give them enough information to best complete the bits of animation I need them to work on.
For the section of the film of the character who is on the phone, I thought it would be an interesting juxtaposition to have his mind animated by scratch on film. They both have a black background and seeing a scratch on film animation is usually a bit mad which mirrors the amount of stimulus we encounter via technology, albeit covered up by lots of overly designed visuals. There are no in betweens, no lining up layers, and you have a tiny amount of space to work on so the variation between frames is large by its nature. It wiggles and jumps all over the place and there is no point in fighting that otherwise might as well use another medium. I quickly realised my animatic would not work for this section and I had to simplify it more into shapes. I kept the technology theme by using the language of emoticons which are designed to be small in their nature. When I did a test, I realised that going 24/25fps would be way too fast for any kind of non abstract drawn section so I simply let myself make a series of loops that then I slowed down into threes. This allowed me to have triple the amount of material I needed (I originally had 50 feet which at 24/25 fps would be exactly the time I needed, 30 seconds). This way, the work was really done in the editing and I had lots to choose from in the editing and re-editing. It was freeing to work in this way and I am keen to try it fully abstracted on clear film, working with colours and working with the verticality of the medium.
Eeeep it has been a while! In the past month, I injured my hand, back, broke a laptop, crowdfunded, and did a bit of animation.
I finished one of the four sections of the animation before we broke for Easter. I finished the section taking place in a desert, animated traditionally using pencil and then acrylic paint and composited digitally. First year student Orkey Chang worked with me and it was super helpful to work with her. After directing in a previous group project, I learned to be quite specific and direct and think of assets that would be good for their skill set. Orkey was super helpful and quite quick which was great and worked on both human and animal animation which she showed interest in.
I also did tests and organised to do the scratch on film section of animation. I am animating straight ahead and did tests with the help of the film department (and their beautiful new Steenbeck!) and now have all the materials ready to do that next week.
I planned everything and shot the live action sections today. It was such a massive prep but it was really interesting to do something totally different. I had my wrist bandaged up for a few days and a backache that I didn’t know you could get at age 25 after completely cleaning my deck to become a set and handling heavy iron garden furniture in and out of my flat. The costume design sent me all over the city and I changed my mind loads but ended up at one of the earliest ideas (that I believe Shaun mentioned) of having the costumes hint towards the mediums and moods of the characters animated imaginations. In the end, the colours and costumes was one of the things I was happiest with. The colours made a nice colour palette that came together naturally, working intuitively, trying to channel Agnes Varda. Directing was a challenge as bouncing between your imagination and directing others was wildly different than animating straight from imagination. I don’t think I am made for it as my films are usually more coherent than I am but as always I love trying new mediums and forms of art so it was super interesting in that sense. Surprisingly, I found myself more comfortable in front of the camera than behind it (I was one of the four actors in the scene.. by acting, that makes one less person to direct!). After looking at the footage, I think I could probably use it but think it would make sense to reshoot using someone who knows all the technicalities of a camera as that tripped me up a bit. It was a really good test though and will use the footage to mock up what it will look like (much better to show vision than my doodled animatic).
The pixilation section I have now sorted out and will shoot in two weeks time when I can take out the camera again. That would be just a day’s work and I am thinking to use a camera person for that as well.
The last section, the oil on glass, I will focus on when we return to uni for those three weeks.
I know it is a bit all over the place and such a mix but I still feel really excited about using all these materials and my story and sentiments all feel right and keep me going. Having finished all my past animations on time gives me the confidence that I will finish this one as well, although I know it will be mad to get there.
Finally started to animate the first section. Sorting out the background and eventually decided to paint loads of textures and put them together in photoshop as painting the full background from scratch kept looking a bit sloppy. Kimmo recommended I do a film workshop which really helped me rethink the scratch on film section and realise that the simpler the better for this type of animation.
Here is an edited version of the storyboard for scratch on film section, simplified.
This was a happy accident (: I am going to use this for my sun in the desert section.
Here is my messy set up at uni for line testing.
This is from the processing room for the film workshop where we made rayographs.
This is a still from a David Anderson film which uses pixilation in the forest which is a big inspiration for one of my scenes. Shaun recommended me to look him up and the only way to see him was on VHS at Camberwell so I took a little journey there into the past.
This is a desert reference from the Saguaro Desert.
Mm prickly nopales..
De Chirico is a big inspiration for the section in the desert and his use of shadows.
Here is the desert background without character/shadows/sun in it yet.
LAV week! Nicola was super helpful in workshopping and helping act out our scenes.
I went to see the Monochrome: Painting in Black and White show as one of the last visits for inspiration before we begin the animation stage. The earlier pieces were not as relevant but I realised that Picasso was an artist who painted a lot in black and white. In these pieces, you don’t question it and it allows the viewer to focus on texture and shape a bit more as well. All my animation will be in black and white for a few reasons..
– to connect the different animation styles together
– to separate the animation more from the live action (specifically the pixilation section)
– to simplify it as the animation has a lot going on in general
– to create an other worldliness about the mental landscapes
I showed and explained my animatic to Nicola, Shaun, and Kimmo on the same day as I had a sore throat so by the end I was exhausted in many ways as getting lots of viewpoints on your idea can be a bit scattering. You need to take time after to take in all the advice, see which ones to incorporate and which ones not to and if not to, address the issues that were seen by others. In the past, I have not always listened to the advice and it is usually those bits that I can’t not see as mistakes when I view the animation later on so I am trying not to make the same mistake this time.
Kimmo and Shaun both touched upon continuity and having some type of rhythm/way of going in and out of the real world/imagined world. I thought to go into each world through an action, having an object fall from the real world into the imagined world, and to come out of it by keeping the surrounding mental landscape on the screen for a bit while the real character fades in. Visually it would be a bit like Jonathan Hodgson’s Feeling My Way, using the two mediums the way he does: live action to show the ‘reality’ and animated to show the ‘imagined reality’ and blending the two for the transitions.
I read a really interesting essay on television written in the 90s by David Foster Wallace that helped me a lot with my section of the film focusing on consumption of technology. He has a brilliant way of writing and an awareness of what was going on that has such a relevance today even though the state of technology has changed so much since then. He saw through what it was and saw what it exploited in us, how it wasn’t the problem of technology itself but how it goes about doing what it does (i.e. getting us addicted, spending loads of time on it even if we don’t want to) because of how we are conditioned at this point in time.
I also watched Jan Svankmajer’s Alice which was wonderful. The textures! I watched it before but wasn’t really “there” but this time I noticed and loved how textural all the objects were. They all seem used and loved, not new props for a film. He wrote a book about tactility in art that is also great; he used to have these tactile days where he would go around his house covering his eyes to see what it did to his other senses and kept a journal about it that was really interesting. He has a good sense of humour about the whole thing as well and describes when he fell down the stairs after stepping on something sharp and it was bleeding all over the place all because of his “tactile exercises”.
Screenshots from Alice below as well as shots from my sketchbook that won’t make sense to anyone but me for a while..
Also! I had a wonderful moment where I put a piece of paper on the lightbox not noticing the one below it and it gave me a completely new idea and spin on my way of looking at the whole film which was really nice. Picture below as well.
I’m finding it super challenging to do the animatic as the mediums in the film as well as the fact that the beginning and end are in live action will change the whole way it’s perceived. Animatics always don’t feel right to me as well because I find the timing changes in the final film; you always need longer if it’s a looser animation style as the audience needs more time to take in all the information that’s moving around the screen. But I am moving forward with it, setting little daily deadlines within the weekly deadlines to keep on, despite being frustrated at (all) times. It is helping me simplify things as some things don’t read well and some things are unnecessary. When you see everything altogether, you realise how much you are trying to squeeze into a few minutes. I leave some sketches below for characters in the scratch on film section, facial expression changes for the painted on live action section, and stills from animatic.