Hello fleeting visitor! Having just watched the first three and a half minutes of a French animated feature I thought I’d do a quick post as you have to be ‘on this’. Visually it looks fantastic and the storytelling (from the short sequence shown) seems top notch too. I love how it has a real individual aesthetic and am just looking now to see where I can watch the full film (it was at Annecy this year, so maybe a DVD will be out somewhere). Here’s a couple of screenshots from the press pack (click to view larger).
What excites me about seeing films like this is the possibility of an audience becoming all too familiar with the 3D norm and a Disney model, then finding that they can still enjoy a film that looks very different as long as the story is engaging. We’re just waiting for that story and the people to catch on, but it can definitely happen in today’s interconnected world of entertainment on demand (I already have seen Sony partnering with short film festivals for providing content on it’s PS3 platform, so the opportunities are there).
It’s a film by Jean-Loup Felicioli and Alain Gagnol. Read more about it here. Here’s the opening sequence I watched, see what you think.
I went to see Spielberg’s Tintin film on Wednesday, both with genuine interest as a film fan and as an animation nerd, wanting to see whether they pulled off the motion capture without it feeling uncomfortable. I’d heard great reviews about it and having first seen the initial trailer way back where they showed tentative moving set pieces, I wondered if they had something up their sleeve or still were languishing in the uncanny valley. Well, I have to say they seem to have cracked that ping pong ball suit animation…FINALLY! This is the point where Spielberg comes out and says animating the ‘old fashioned’ 3D way would actually be easier, rather than re-working messy motion capture data. Oh wait, that’s Robert Zemeckis. And we’re still waiting to suffer the effective mutilation of Yellow Submarine next year…
I went to see the film without the silly specs. I don’t rate the extra cash for a technology that you shouldn’t be aware of after the first 5 minutes (if it’s being done properly). Saying that, it really did allow the quality of the aesthetics to shine without blurry backgrounds and jumpy gimmicks.
Normally a 3D animated film will still ‘wow’ me for a while, whilst I adjust to this reality that is being created in front of me. But I was so aware of the quality of the textures, the attention to detail in Tintin’s hair blowing in the light summer wind, that I was in awe for pretty much the whole picture. The only exception to this was during the ridiculous chase sequences towards to the end, but more on that in a minute. To prove my point, have a look at the images within this review (you can click them for large versions).
So visuals, hat’s off. If you have the smallest understanding of the work that would go into a production like this, you will be blown out of your cinema chair (of a thousand behinds..think about that next time you sit down!) OCD aside, you will love it. It’s worth half the ticket price to see the big picture up there. A real cinema experience.
As for the story, I liked 80% of it! I won’t issue any spoilers, but I found myself coming out of the film towards the end, mainly due to the heightened action that was pretty relentless. It was all good fun and very escapist blockbuster…but a bit too much than was needed.
The characters are excellent though. You’ll love the exploration of Captain Haddock and Tintin as their relationship develops (nothing dodgy going on! Just a good part of the script) and the atmosphere when the film reaches act two is pretty tidy. The final act feels a bit on a knee-jerk reaction from the finance point of view, almost like they were worried that the audience won’t be entertained if there isn’t a big crash-bang-wallop to finish, so the action shifts up a gear. But overall, the film has a nice balance of the characters fans of the books will love, and an easy route in for newcomers.
A note on Spielberg’s use of the medium. We’ve all seen the director with the sci-fi camera videos where they look into a viewer and run around an empty warehouse framing their masterpiece (see the James Cameron footage from Avatar if you need a reminder). But what Spielberg has done so well is use the camera in ways that compliment the medium, blending shots in a way that adds a whole new layer of slick to the edit, and also making it feel even closer to its comic book origins.
Now for the motion capture. This was the area I was ever so impressed with. Considering the car-crash forefathers of this technology like The Polar Express and A Christmas Carol, I was intrigued to see if they’d sorted out all those awkward elbows and soft contact points. If you don’t know what I’m on about, watch one of the previously mentioned films and then compare the spacing in the movement to something animated by a real person, frame by frame, in the computer. The timing may be the same, but the spacing is all off, so the movements become floaty and…well, too realistic. It works in live action, but animation is meant to caricature life, so we expect more.
Anyway, this film is quite a realistic take on the Tintin world. The characters have pores, ruddened cheeks and nose hair…it’s all very real until you consider the ‘cartoony’ bulbous noses that are larger than their eyeballs. This is a slightly uncomfortable side of the asethetic, and reminds you that this may want to be a cartoon but will regularly jolt you into ‘real life’. A violent scene near the beginning felt wrong, like I’d just seen something I hadn’t. Possibly because the logic of what was acceptable in the cartoon world had been broken, mainly due to my perception of what was acceptable in an ‘animated’ genre..and those lines being blurred with something closer to a live action thriller. The film has a rating of PG in the UK. I don’t want to comment on this area as I find it tedious, but I will say that motion capture could bring about all sorts of headaches to the classification board in the years to come. The uncanny valley has a swan song yet!
Overall, the film was very enjoyable and a real Spielberg blockbuster. It’s got a great atmosphere and subsequently is top-notch escapism. It’s quite a grown up animated film (if you can call it that) and not for the young kids, they’ll get bored quick. There is alot of quality humour and character play, which was surprising and one of the highlights. Not many films in this bracket have such a good script (for the most part anyway!) No rating for me, you’ll know if you want to see it or not. If you’re interested at all in the animation or visual effects industries, it’s a hot topic and there’s plenty to enjoy.
It did leave me wondering how long it will be until the animation from motion capture is good enough that studios choose that route to save money and speed up the process for other types of animated films. Will we see the animation industry changing again? Will the glut of the workforce become motion data interpreters and tweakers rather than creatives who actually have a personal input? I doubt it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if someone floats the idea over a coffee in West Hollywood.
Here’s a small selection of some other layout scribbles. You can see the front on ‘Wes Anderson’ I was going for at one stage (I may still come back to this!) These were done before the previous post, just to confuse things. Then I chose a direction and mocked it up ready for some straight-to-animatic work.
The work in progress name for the short film is now ‘Silver Lining’. All posts to do with the project will be tagged with ‘silverlining’ so it’s easy to find the chronology. I’ve been working more on characters and aesthetics today, aswell as this tricky layout business. I want to create a stage that is simple yet includes enough elements for an appropriate stage. Things I want to include are: Man on bin, bench, statue, buildings. Obviously there are other elements in the one I’ve posted below, but it’s making it work which is the tough part. The visuals need to gel so that the audience is clear on the animated parts and what is background, if you see what I mean.
This current one has a bit of added depth, as my first few were straight on for effect. The deeper space will give some acting room, but I want to make sure the camera angle stays as low as possible (without making the animation a chore). I’m thinking along the lines of one angle, locked off for the entire short. It’s based on my ‘watching society drift by’ idea and so this should give the strongest feeling of present tense observation. If I cut, I feel I will draw the viewer away from the main elements I want them to be focusing on (I want them accustomed to every last bit of the frame by the end, just like gymnast would use the whole floor, I will use the whole of this perceived stage).
I’m back from working in Tasmania…a big push for the cash side of things gives me more time to spend on the film, which I’m sure will be handy (the lack of needing to make tough decisions when the crunch comes is a useful planning feature!) Tasmania is a wild and quiet place all at once, feeling a bit undeveloped and ‘old-world’ whilst new. Basically, it’s confused (especially about it’s forests) but an all-round interesting trip. I was working on my film development in sketchbooks and notepads whilst away, which was pretty good for the stage I’m at, as I need the time to do other things so ideas can sit and stew for a while. Stewing I did, lots, and now I have explored alot of avenues and committed to a few which were previously undiscovered.
One of the hardest things I find with making a film is the knock on your enthusiasm when you realise that your ‘amazing’ ideas need to be boiled down to an actual, finite output. This is the hard bit, and there is no other way to get there than through general practice. This, along with other reasons, is why I am making this film. Images from the sketchbook and colour mock ups to come, then very soon…animatics and animation tests (whilst keeping the special bits back for the Time Warner Home Video release…) Now, if only I can get some work done this weekend with the sound of F1 cars nailing it round Albert Park…
The trailer is finally out and about on the net. Boy, did this thing change in colour and comp! It looked quite a bit different when I saw the initial tests, so I’m pleased they tweaked it at the end. I worked on this last year at Ink in Dundee as part of a larger, worldwide animation effort (under the creative studio direction of Neomis in France) and it was a great experience. Hopefully I’ll get to see it someday soon! The animatic was alot of fun and I didn’t even understand the dialogue!
I worked on both animation and clean up (there is some top notch animation in this film from the guys I worked with…the style was very strict!)
So to start this film production blog, I’ll explain how I fixed upon my idea. I’ve had lots of things floating around my brain in the past few months (with regards to films, animation, etc) and this hasn’t let up since actually working on some of them in more depth. The more time I spend on an idea, the more other offshoot ideas I seem to get. So as you can imagine, choosing something to go with was a tough one. This wasn’t made any easier due to the fact that I have several ideas already developed and ready for making, they just need the final tweak.
But…as I got further into the process, the main obstacle loomed up in front of me…time. I really don’t want to bite off more than I can chew, especially with other work commitments, and if not just because I always end up adding to the pot anyway. I wanted to do this project because I know I have learnt alot since my last real bash at making a film, the test will be to see how much will manifest itself in production! The litmus test.
I settled on the final idea (and kept the others I had worked on up until now shelved) just because of their time required to fulfill the idea properly. I have several short-short ideas, but this one seems fun and is fresh in my mind. I want to keep the narrative under wraps, although the basic idea is based around a street scene, with a focus on character animation with a chosen subject. It is a specifically simple set up to allow me to get quickly to the performance questions I’ll be presented with and develop an uncomplicated yet personal aesthetic.
The idea is based on a real situation I quickly sketched on a busy street in New Orleans. Here’s the jump off point:
I’m up here in Scotland now, working on a French feature film. I’m living near a beach, which is still a novelty and amazing to be able to walk out and look at the sea…without being on holiday! Dundee is a unique little place, the bane of it being the blooming greenfly everywhere, it’s like wedding confetti at midday!
Unfortunately I can’t post anything I’m working on, but I will be posting some of my watercolour series very soon.