Saturday, 28 March 2009

Storyboarding for a psycho

I'm shooting live-action for my third and final character (a murderous psychotic artist) on Monday so that I can complete my film.
Due to popular demand (well, two people) I am going to be doing the 'acting' for this final character, which is going to feel awkward to say the least! (Who in high school EVER imagined that I would do some acting?!) But with a little help from Ally, Jess, and Topher last year I pretty much perfected that character, so it's not completely new to me!

In preparation for my acting debut on Monday I have been storyboarding some murder scenes from various films (for research and development), and I'm now trying to create an extensive collection of original thumbnail images (that don't copy shots from other films) with detailed notes for my own film.
I thought I was doing really well and had created a unique sequence, only to discover that the composition of some shots is almost identical to some of the shots in Hitchcock's Psycho... (dammit!)
But at least I'm getting some really useful stuff done, and hopefully these thumbnails will give me a good shooting schedule to ensure that I do not forgot to shoot any important shots (like I did in January while filming stuff with Darryl).

I'm pretty excited (if not also nervous/self-conscious) about attempting all this crazy stuff on Monday, but I've arranged for Klodya Menting (whom I also worked with last year) to come into college and film it all for me - so I can't back out of it now! And even if Klodya pulls out, Marianne had also offered to film it for me - so I have to commit to it now! (Those responsible for the "popular demand" had better appreciate it!)

In other news:
- I've been creating some backgrounds for my film with watercolours after a few earlier tests produced intriguing results.
- I made a 2 minute preview of my film (one that doesn't ruin the ending) to show the family on Sunday, and during this quick editing process I devised some more interesting revisions of the film... I really liked the climax "ending" so I'm going to fight hard to keep it in the final version.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Film update & words of wisdom

I've spent a long time away from my film this month, and after what a particular Quentin Tarantino character may recognise as "a moment of clarity", I've decided just to stick with all the rotoscoping and ballpoint pen colouring.

I've finally come to terms with the fact that this film (using the drawn process) will never look as great as I ideally desire (which requires more experience, resources, and time than are available to me in 4th Year). This realisation has helped me to 'enjoy' [I don't think that is the most suitable word] the production process more and just see what happens... The final result will be decent by my own perfectionist standards, so it should be fine for other students too - and I suppose by not meeting my exceptional expectations first time around will mean I've still got something to aim for with my next project! I've certainly got enough obscure influences/inspirations/ideas/drive to get started on a new auteur-style film after this project is concluded.
Anyway, I thought that this post (with it's "moment of clarity") would be suitable for publishing some of the words of wisdom that I've received over roughly the past 12 months...

- "We as an art college should be striving to produce innovative, exciting new works, and attempting to break new ground for the future animators. We shouldn't be trying to imitate someone else in the professional world, or settle for what we know and have access to. We are the explorers of today (like Len Lye, Walt Disney, and Norman McLaren were in the past); we have the rest of our careers to comply with the industry and do as someone else tells us, but for just now, as students, we should do what we want to do". (Neil Kempsell, March 2008)

- [about the concept selection for a graduation film] "I think it's best to just pick a simple concept right from the beginning. Many people go into 4th Year expecting to produce a 10-minute masterpiece [of the quality like Disney, Petrov, or Burton] and then they realise much later that they won't be able to achieve it, and they will have to cut it all right down - which ruins the story... It's only a student film after all, it's not a big expensive industry film". (Erica Weiste, April 2008)

- "Try not to be too much of a perfectionist". (Erica Weiste, March 2009)

- [about the work load/scheduling of a graduation film] "Start planning it all right now [the end of 3rd Year] and make sure that you've got the story, the style, the process, EVERYTHING, completely sorted out by October [the start of 4th Year]. That way you can get as much time as possible to develop it and work on the animation". (Louis Hudson, May 2008)

- [about the dedication required on a graduation film] "There's so much to do that it will mean not sleeping for the next few weeks". (Alison Cross, April 2008)

And finally, just because I think it's pretty humorous, a quote I found on the internet from an actor talking about his job... "I'm an actor... I do a job and I go home. Why are you interested in me? You don't ask a truck driver about his job". (James Gandolfini).

Friday, 13 March 2009

Contemplation of sound

Filmmakers try to avoid using more dialogue than required because it does not enhance the atmosphere or further the story, and I think music is the same. If music runs all the way through a film then there is little variation and it either becomes a distracting ambience or just a very long music video - which I do not think is very effective unless it is for a musical!
In real life we hear noises rather than music (unless we are plugged into our “i-plod” or some wee ned cruises past in his modified Corsa with the toones blasting), yet we still experience all kinds of emotions, so I do not see why films need music in order to create/enhance the atmosphere.
Music also gives the film a sense of rhythm and timing, which kind of makes the story’s progression feel pre-determined. This works fine for some genres, such as comedy (which has “comedy timing”) or adventure films (because characters usually plan what they want to do for the start of their adventure) therefore the musical rhythm mimics the planning that the protagonists are doing in their head, which gives the music a purpose and enhances the atmosphere. However in frightening situations people are scared because they do not know where they are or what is going to happen, which makes them feel psychologically unstable and distorts their sense of time.
For the reason that time is distorted in frightening situations I think that music (certainly any music with a rhythm or clear timing) is inappropriate for film genres like suspense and horror. People are usually scared in unpredictable situations because they focus on the unpredictability (and what their imagination is conjuring up) rather than trying to take their mind away from it to focus on more pleasant situations. Likewise I think a good horror film is one which forces the audience to peer into the silence or blackness and imagine what is going to happen, rather than prompting them to feel a particular emotion through music. After all people are only limited by their imagination, so silent/ambient horror films should be really effective on people who allow their imagination to reign free.
Horror films that rely on music and/or shocking imagery are less effective than ambiguous films because the viewer can hardly modify the experience, so if something does not shock it does not work, and these physical objects are also open to personal interpretation – which can cause a reaction that the filmmaker did not intend and which then ruins the film for some people.

To test this, try searching video websites for clips about your non-film-related hobbies and see how you react to particular forms of music on it… For example, I am interested in motorsport and modified cars; and if I search for something very specific but with global appeal I will find thousands of very similar videos. If I make a search for “Lewis Hamilton, Silverstone, 2008” I might get ten near identical videos with highlights from the ITV race coverage, but it is very likely that all the ‘authors’ who published that copyright material on the Internet will have added their own choice of audio track to ‘enhance’ the viewing experience… I would have happily watched their video with the ITV audio (or a type of rock music that I like might be just as good) so I would be inclined to watch the full video, whereas if the author has added rap music it will have to sound quite impressive if I am to continue listening to it, but if they have added a terrible chipmunk techno rave cacophony I am probably going to abandon my search regardless of how amazing the video footage is! It may have been the author’s favourite music and they may have found it to be a perfect match with the video, but I have a completely different interpretation of their choice of music – and this differing personal interpretation ruins the viewing experience for me.
Some readers may find the link between people’s interpretation of a type of music to be of little relevance to their interpretation of a film soundtrack, but I am merely using it as a common analogy for how people interpret things in different ways, and why I think it justifies my desire to make the music in my film as minimal as necessary…

The type of film soundtrack that I use in my graduation film (which has a suspense/horror element) will obviously affect different people in different ways, but I think a lack of music is the most suitable option. From my cinema experiences I feel that many audiences feel uneasy watching a quiet/ambient film in the cinema, and although they may not appreciate this type of soundtrack (just like I do not appreciate chipmunk techno rave) the ‘silence’ will make the audience feel uncomfortable just like the protagonist in my film. The lack of music in my soundtrack will distort peoples perception of how long the film goes on for, which again imitates the perceptions of the protagonist as she explores the spooky old mansion. And finally the ambient/minimal soundtrack allows the audience to imagine the horrors that may or may not be lurking in the dark, which should be much more effective than the audience being forced to anticipate them coming (as happens with the full orchestral score in The Shining).
For an example of how well a horror/suspense film works without music, watch Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. There is very little music in this film, and all the main terror scenes are only audible from the squawking of birds.

New showreel! and other news from an unusual day

I've spent the last 4 hours putting together a shiny new showreel of my animation work... Tis available for viewing here at:

Earlier this evening I tried making an abstract audio track for my film with bits of soundtracks from other films... Those films were: Psycho, Vertigo, The Killers, Casino Royale, and something else I don't remember... It doesn't really work, but it was a decent way of wasting some time.
Did you know that there is very little music in Hitchcock's The Birds?! I have been planning on keeping the music in my film as minimal as possible, but everyone else thought that was a bad idea... Well I checked some of the most suspenseful moments in that film, and none of them had music!

This afternoon I made some random drawing/painting type thingys related to my film too... Below are two of those images.
So it's been a really productive day - even though it hasn't really progressed my film.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Graduation film update: The good, the bad, and the ugly

I am still pondering whether I should continue with my rotoscoping process (I've already done most of the film with rotoscoping), or if it would look better by re-storyboarding the film and making in-between frames of animation at the same 1-inch frame size...
Everybody in college who has seen my rotoscoping has said that it looks good, but (as always happens in college) nobody has offered any form of criticism, which makes the positive feedback seem unbalanced and hollow. Perhaps if a few people were brave enough to give a little bit of constructive feedback (rather than just "I like it") I would feel more inclined to continue with the rotoscoping... People tend to agree (once I raise the issue) that my storyboards look better than the rotoscoping, but so far nobody is keen on the prospect of me restarting from the storyboard stage (I think they are scared of a little bit of hard work!), but I still think this is a better option.
I think restarting would be a better option because the whole point of doing rotoscoping was to re-create the look of my storyboards (which would be impossible to recreate with my preferred animation techniques of Paint on Glass or stopmotion), but the rotoscoping is not re-creating the style of the original storyboards to my satisfaction, hence why I want to restart the animation process by using the storyboards as key frames for the final animation.
As this point in time is very likely to be the death of my rotoscoped film, and my final film is now going to look very different from the current rotoscoping, I am including a 50 second video of my rotoscoping, which I am calling "The good, the bad, and the ugly" because it is documenting how my whole rotoscoping process has been hit-or-miss with very unpredictable outcomes.