Category Archives: Animatic

Planning the Next Scenes

I have to apologize for taking such a long hiatus from the blog (and from the film!).  I was kind of shocked to see that it’s been so long since I’ve last posted.

It’s been a stressful summer, though when I try to explain, it will seem like I am blaming the weather for my lack of posts.  Let’s just say there has been a LOT of rain in Toronto, which has lead to a flooded basement, a constantly flooding studio (no damage though, thankfully… just lots of mud), and some very expensive and stressful house repairs and renovations.  So now, several months later, the rainy days may continue, but we now have a new, clean, dry, mold-free basement, complete with weeping tiles and sump pumps (which I now know more about than I ever wanted to know), and a dry, mud-free studio.  The studio was the last area to undergo repairs, and we haven’t had quite enough rain in the past week to test out the new weeping tile drainage system, so fingers crossed that it all works.  This is the 3rd attempt to repair the water problems in the backyard; hopefully this latest attempt will be the final one!

In order to pay for the construction, I’ve been working my butt off… it’s been great to be working in design again, though I definitely miss working on this little film.

Anyway, I have a couple more big projects to finish up in the next few weeks, and then I will be getting back to the film for a while.


Between all of this working and dealing with floods and renos, I have some planning for the next sequence of shots for the film.  Marcus and I discussed the action following the previous scenes, and I think he’s come up with some interesting ideas for camera angles here.  The character actions themselves seemed hard to make interesting, so I am glad the camera will add some extra energy to it.

There are two versions of the same sequence of actions, each with their own camera angles.  Here they are (not yet lit properly):

Version 1:

Sabela stands, ponderously holding cabbage.

Cut to a low camera angle, scraping the sides of the cabinets.  Sabela drags a stool out from beneath the counter, places the cabbage on top, and walks towards the stove, carrying the stool with the cabbage wobbling as she walks.

Cut to side shot of the cabinet.  Camera racks focus from foreground objects to behind the pot, as Sabela plops the cabbage down on the stove, and then climbs into view.

Cut to front of cabinet, medium side view of Sabela.  She is kneeling on the stool, getting ready to cut the leaves of cabbage.

Sabela is looking over the pot, cutting leaves, which fall in.  Text appears to her right.


Version 2:

Sabela reacts to cabbage, picks up stool, walks over to stove, throws cabbage onto stove, all in one continuous shot.  The camera pans right and tilts up as she moves across the stage.

Side view of Sabela as she climbs up onto the stool.

Sabela continues to climb up on the stool and cuts the leaves of cabbage into the pot.

I prefer the first version, for a few reasons:  I like the low camera angle, which brings us to Sabela’s height, so we can see her view of the kitchen; also I like the idea of racking focus across the countertop.

I put together a couple of rough animatics, using these camera angles (though it’s a different camera, so the angles are approximate).  This gives me a sense of the timing and pacing of the sequence.

Versions 1:

And, Version 2:

P.S. Huge thanks again to Shelley for sending such a sweet little package of Gel Water in the mail.  I’ll be using the water and bubbles soon, once we look into the soup pot, a couple scenes down the road.

(Now this is the sort of water I welcome into the home 🙂

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!