Welcome to 22 to 28 November 2015. The TL;DR version: five minute movie on hold; one minute movie being prepped; ill again (bah!)
On Sunday I got the story to the point where it’s ready to be a pitch again. Hooray! And then.. brick wall. I felt overwhelmed with the idea of even putting together a pitch presentation for it. I’ve been doing development for so long (almost an entire year) that I’m mentally stuck there. That won’t do.
Truth is that I’ve sunk so much time into crafting the story for a short film that I forgot I’m in this to make a film, not just develop a story where the resulting film is a completely abstract proposition. (If I can ever convince someone to pay me to sit in a writer’s room coming up with funny, maybe I can go back to thinking that way…)
In order to manage this apparent stagefright, the longer AMITS short film now goes on the backburner. I’m treating it as a longer-term goal to work up to via shorter films.
So for now I’m going to work on a shorter piece featuring Gronky and Pointy in a situation that fits the middle act of the film. The situation is as follows:
Gronky brings Pointy a hat. Pointy tries to leave. The hat has other ideas…
I’ve been sketching it out and readying the necessary assets. Compared to the needs of the full film, it is blissfully simple and much less intimidating. The hat asset needs to be built and Gronky’s face needs to be updated, then I can jump over to the crappymatic. Hurrah!
And then, just in time for the weekend, I came down with an upper respiratory infection. Boo. So I’ve been watching a ton of old Buster Keaton shorts while convalescing. I seem to be getting over it pretty quickly – laughing at Buster’s antics helps.
It’s always a good time for 15 to 21 November 2015. (These seem to make less and less sense every week.)
This week’s main production show-and-tell is to do with motion blur. But first, a little adminstrative notice: I have Disqus comments now. Feel free to use them!
Right. Now for the week that was.
Last Sunday I got The Fear about starting work on the animatic. In a nutshell, I’m not ready yet: the story’s still needs more tightening passes and I hadn’t even figured out what everything’s meant to look like and I forgot that Gronky doesn’t have his good mouth yet and and and. So no progress on the animatic just yet.
Storywise this week I lost Pointy’s character (he briefly became this
charmless jealous horrible bastard) but I’ve found him again and tied this version of him to a post so he doesn’t get away again. Pointy now has a solid character arc, so that needs another
writing pass to hammer it in effectively and scrub any other
wayward bits that don’t belong. Janitorial rewriting, basically.
The ending is still giving me some trouble. Good endings are tricky. I’m zeroing in on something. We shall see!
Some scenes are set enough that I could at least get to work on props. I started making some of the easier props as a warm up and I now have a parabolic mirror on a swivel. Other props are mid-design, including the movie’s mysterious MacGuffin.
On Tuesday, Greg Zaal did a blog post about new motion blur controls in Cycles available in the Blender nightly builds. The controls let you specify whether the blur comes before, after or during the current shot and how opaque the motion blur is at any given point. To my delight I found I could do cartoon-style trailing streaks and sharp leading edges with a bit of compositing. I even made a video about it. So yay again!
I’ve been experimenting with motion blur on and off this week. Last night I got to work with the old “Pointy running into the bus stop” shot from the April animatic. There’s bugs and straight-up motion streaks don’t look too interesting but with a bit of noise applied in composite it looks way nicer. Check out the captioned images attached to this week’s post for more info on how I achieved the effect.
That’s all for now. If you want to leave a comment to chat or ask about stuff, leave comments! It’s always nice to know people are out there.
Story dev is very nearly almost done – I know I’ve said that in the past, but this time for sure. The gag bank is absolutely packed so I’ve been able to get through the middle act and massage in another “rule” which makes the gags even more satisfying. The whole thing where bad luck strikes because Gronky is helpful yet unlucky has been switched over onto Pointy – whenever Pointy’s ungrateful or mean, that’s when his luck turns for the worse. Much less explaining to do means more time for funny!
I haven’t done an animatic yet so I haven’t seen the overall shape of the film in the rough. It would be exceptionally foolhardy not to make an animatic, but on the other hand certain key scenes I’ve got are locked enough to start pre-production on. Those scenes are not in doubt at this point, so I can happily start figuring out how to make them without having to worry about discarding them later.
I did the little beetle guy from the pre-title scene last Sunday. I needed a rig that could scamper and tumble. I’m happy with how this quick animation test turned out – the skitter looks good, the tumble mechanism works, and the rig is OK to work with. The surfacing is just a placeholder for now and will be polished up once it’s time to render everything.
There’s another gag which involves wind blowing sand off something. For this I tried using a particle system with Cycles particle density. The particles don’t whip up and disperse in a way I like yet and the cloud is way too dense, so this one will take another try.
And just like that, it’s 25 to 31 October 2015. I’m typing this from Changi Airport sitting on the most messed-up airport carpet in the universe while my laptop screen glitches out from being dropped onto said carpet. I’ve got just over seven hours left to go until I’m back home and 1 ½ hours until I board for the final leg, so this entry is a bit wordy. 🙂
So. Amsterdam. Well, the rest of Amsterdam. In the context of making movies, of course.
Blender Conferenceand pitching in the sun
I pitched “A moment in the sun” again to Andy Goralczyk on Sunday and got some more notes which reinforced what Beorn said. The intro changed slightly from before and Andy didn’t note it quite as much as Beorn did. He did say the relationship between Pointy and Gronky wasn’t super-clear. Something to work on.
The Blender Conference continued through to Sunday but unofficially there is still one more day of convening to do – the Blender Institute Open Day. No talks, no presentations, just hanging out until people leave. The time to relax and chat coupled with the day-long series of goodbyes makes it a thoroughly bittersweet occasion.
During the Open Day I pitched the movie to Blender Institute animator Hjalti Hjalmarsson and BI director/all-rounder Pablo Vazquez. Beorn was also there to give advice again – the pitch was changing subtly every time I did it. Possibly also the play-acting was getting better. The intro now contained a sequence where Gronky helps a little insect past an obstacle only to get bitten for his trouble. Sort of a microcosm of Gronky’s relationship to everything.
Hjalti and Beorn had really good feedback. I showed Hjalti the “Pointy the Entrepreneur” version and both Hjalti and Beorn said that idea was easily funny enough to work as a short film. For a few minutes I thought I might even just dump the slapstick version I’ve been developing altogether. In the end, I decided not to. I considered it long enough to get a certain RubiconPaul all intrigued about this blogpost before I said goodbye to him but sorry Paul, it’s not the bombshell I promised. 🙂
Pablo liked the film and said my self-discipline was inspiring considering how long I’d stuck with it. What seemed to attract the most attention were the story planning sketches I was doing in my notebook. People really liked the look of the characters and my cartooning in general, and even the animation test from last year with Gronky stomping around happily made people smile.
And then just like that it was all over. I was back to being yet another tourist in Amsterdam. I went to Amsterdam’s zoo, then I went to another zoo in another country on a half-day trip. I continued to jot down gags.
I finally nailed the relationship problem by using the old trick of switching motivation from one character to another. And then figuring out why they have that motivation. And then figuring out how to express that motivation. And finaly I got my streamlined story. It was even a proper Eureka moment because it happened in the bath. The characters have morphed slightly again and one of the more troublesome comedic causes and effects – Pointy’s voice being concussively horrible and Gronky having incredibly good hearing – is now consigned to the discard pile. Probably for the best because Pointy’s voice was also kind of annoying for the audience.
With that I tihnk I can finally say that the end of the development phase is in sight. I can even start doing single-shot tests and create an updated teaser with the material I’ve got.
What surprised me a bit was that normally I’m shy as hell, but the pitches often turned physical. If I hadn’t drawn something yet, I play-acted it. Either I trusted these guys and any onlookers enough to make an arse out of myself, or getting the film right took me totally past my fear of embarrassment to just get it right. I believe in the story that much, maybe? But I am really getting into this whole film making lark as a craft. I like myself better when I’m making cartoons, for sure.
Klik! Animation Festivaland more animated features
On Thursday I dropped in to check out Klik! Animation Festival up at the EYE film museum. Instead of applauding, you get a little clicker and when the film finishes the cinema sounds like an army of cicadas. Also people click in time to the leader. Or shyly between screenings. Or, in the case of Unhappy Happy, which seemed to be created specifically to mess with festival audiences, at random intervals. There was even a Blender film, “9, Chemins de Gauchoirs”, about a shepherd who stumbles on a very strange ski lift. What was particularly educational was how Don Hertzfeldt’s World Of Tomorrow played in front of a Dutch audience. The MIAF audience was much more enthusiastic. Not to say the Dutch folks didn’t laugh at anything, but it tended to be the entertainingly cruel comedic stylings of their own country.
Speaking of cartoons, I’ve caught a couple of feature animations on the trip back: Asterix and the Mansions of the Gods was awesome and I need a hi-def copy of it as soon as I can get my hands on one. The poppy French animation style and excellent renderings of the Asterix characters and world were fantastic. I watched it in French so I don’t know how the English dub sounds.
Speaking of French animation, I watched Minions straight afterwards. That was not too shabby. I think Pierre Coffin deserves more credit for his voice work on the Minions though – depending on how many languages you know there’s a ton of bilingual bonuses in there. 🙂
Finally, I saw a Western Australian film called Paper Planes. It’s nto animated but it was fantastic. My sister was a stills photographer on it and nagged me to go and see it when it was on atht the movies, but I think seeing and hearing my home country was just the ticket on this trip home. What really surprised me was how great it is – Inside Out didn’t make me cry (not even that bit with Bing Bong) but the answering machine scene in Paper Planes put tears on my cheeks before I realised they were even there. It is one of the most touching and beautiful bits of cinema I’ve seen in ages and "ages” definitely includes Chaplin’s City Lights. Occasional dodgy CGI aside, Paper Planes is an underdog boy’s story definitely worth a look.
That’s about it for now. I’ve got another week until I have to be back at work. I suspect I shall be a busy little bee during that time now that the way is all but cleared for pre-production. See you again soon!
week I took a running leap at writing the ending of “A moment in the
sun” as well as crafting gags for the midsection of the film.
first attempt at bringing everything to a close was verbose and
overstuffed with ideas. There were even snake superpowers which cured
Pointy of his fainting. (See this week’s image for Snake Pointy.) Even
though it was off the mark, it felt great to get stuck in and draft
something out after what feels like a long time away from that part of
the process. The subsequent refinements feel really good, so I’ll be
doing those up into a form I can submit to other folks for review to see
what they think of it.
gag crafting is something I’m doing every night before bed. I’m aiming
at one gag an evening but tonight four of them have shown up. Only one
of them is actually any good. I feel like “deleted gags” could almost be
a special DVD feature at this point. Some are too racy, some are too
local.. and there’s one gag in particular that runs up to the line and
farts on it without necessarily crossing it. Suffice it to say there’s
two powdered white substances that have a reptutation for making people
hyperactive – why someone would abandon a suitcase full of icing sugar I’m not sure, but it’s my movie and I say that’s what happened.
Besides which, Mr Chaplin did a cocaine joke in Modern Times and still got a G rating so I’m game.
one part of the film that remains a mystery in the specific is the introduction. Time to sketch that next, I suppose.
it for this week. Next week’s post might be early or late or more
numerous than usual because it’s Blender Conference time again – I’ll be
flying out to Amsterdam tomorrow night to attend. I look forward to
seeing at least some of you there. 🙂