Animatic: Part 1

This past week or so has been a busy one.  I did a quick stop mo job at YTV, building and animating a stop motion gingerbread man.  Now I’m back to the film, putting together a new live action animatic.  Last Sunday I went to a friend’s (Susie’s) house to shoot her and her kids playing the parts of all the puppet characters.  I’ve also taken pictures of the set, with puppets for placement, to experiment with camera angles.  These pictures will create the backdrop for the final version of my animatic, while the footage from Sunday’s shoot will be roughly composited over top.

My mom reads this blog — hi mom — and she asked me to explain in more detail what an animatic is.  So I’m going to try and post bits of my animatic progress this week as it all unfolds.  The first 1/2 of the film is pretty abstract, so really all the character stuff takes place in the last half.  I need to figure out about 1.5 minutes of character animation.  The animatic is a VERY ROUGH representation of what the animation could look like.  It gives me an idea how long each individual move will take, and lets me work through the many questions that come up about timing, lighting, composition, continuity, etc.  It’s also a way to communicate and discuss ideas with others who are involved with this stage of the film…  i.e. DOP Marcus Elliott, who’ll be working his lighting magic on Friday.

I’ll show the part I’m currently working on:  the introduction of Sabela.  In the even rougher animatic, made several months ago, I used still frames from the storyboard to work out some rough timing.  One of those frames was stolen from Amelie, where Little Amelie is looking out the window.  Then we cut to an over-the-shoulder shot, where Sabela is looking out the window still, but she blows on it, steaming it up, and draws a line in the fog with her finger.  (This whole film pretty much bloomed out of this one image:  a puppet with breath, blowing fog on a window and then drawing into it.  I later found out that it’s been done, but this version will be so different… and hasn’t everything been done before?)

This is the first background plate image I took for Scene 13, the introduction of Sabela.  I realized later that the kitchen set shouldn’t be there yet in behind the window, so had to retake the shot:

So here’s Sabela in her Amelie moment, looking out the window with the empty set behind her.  I faked the lighting in Photoshop to try and simulate a dim glow coming from the base of the stage.

Here’s the background plate for Scene 14.  Sabela’s looking out the same window; now we’re looking at her from within the set.  We’ll probably use some semi-reflective mylar or something to get a stronger reflection, though she should be looking out into the darkness of the theatre audience, with the empty-glowy-theatre reflecting behind her.  I’d like to be able to control the reflection, so shooting with reflective material saves me from animating her twice and attempting to match the puppet to her reflection in post.

And here’s the 2 scenes put together in my animatic.  The number in the corner is the frame count, for reference.  I seamed together the footage of Molly (Susie’s 6-year-old) to attempt a sequence of movements that didn’t actually happen in the footage I shot.  It’s pretty abrupt splicing, but as long as it gives me the idea of what that movement is (it’s when she backs away from the window and lowers her arms) then it’s fine.  Music and voice are temporary scratch tracks, text is for timing only.

Two scenes down, many more to go!

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