Wednesday, January 23, 2008

More WWII Film Backgrounds

In earlier posts (here and here), I talked about the process I used to create the backgrounds in my new short. The image posted at the top is a good example of the kinds of backgrounds I was able to do once I really got going with this method.  It was "painted" in Photoshop on top of this drawing :

The next image is what the scene used to look like, a shot which has since been scrapped.  It just seemed a bit flat.

The following images are from the finished sequence.  Using one dynamic background, I'm able to imitate a camera move around the soldier which might otherwise look stale.  I've also really enjoyed this stuff because it's very easy to have an "animated" background: the different layers in a shot can all stay alive by sliding them, scaling them, playing with their ambient light and focus.  It's been a lot of fun!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Death of the Soldier

In the short film I am currently working on, the sequence which is closest to my heart is the levitation of the dead soldier.  This sequence occurs as the American GI responsible for his death reverently recalls the beauty of the young man he had shot.  It became the climax of the film by driving home the main point of the story: the incredible tragedy of each death in every war.   It was my goal to show the human dignity of this German soldier, and make his death an event of real importance.  The Nazi helmet falls away, the jacket opens up, revealing the wound, and his body is transported to a sort of heavenly world.  Hopefully, this can promote empathy for even those we traditionally think of as having been on the side of "evil" and will make the American soldier's grief that much more powerful to see. 

I will be posting more later about the final execution of this sequence, but for now, here are several of the storyboard drawings and concept sketches.  The last image posted is a screenshot from the finished sequence.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Boy at the Beach

The two films I'm currently working on are laborious.  Personally, I think they're gonna look great, but hell if I want to be stuck making an average of 1 film per year for the rest of my life. In an attempt to become more efficient and capable of doing my own films, as well as getting a final result that's more fresh, I am looking for ways to work that will narrow the distance between my original drawing and what ends up on the screen.  I've done a few tests of animating straight ahead in black marker (instead of pencil which is then gone over with marker) and was happy with some of the results.  I think my films will always be heavy on drawing, hopefully my own, so finding a way to do 5 seconds of footage an hour was nice.  This is a short, nonsense film that comes from that experimentation.  This could probably use a touch of color if it were to be finished.  Oh, and a coherent storyline.

Monday, January 14, 2008

James Harvey's "Sorrow of the Soldier"

Just wanted to post a little response to the thread Amid started over at Cartoon Brew on James Harvey's "Sorrow of the Soldier".  Several visitors to the blog commented on a supposed lack of sophistication in the message and form of the film.  It's really unfortunate that the focus would be on these things instead of on the ambition of Mr. Harvey to effect a positive change.  Idealism in any form deserves a little breathing space, especially when it's as heartfelt as this.  Oh, and by the way, it is a very visually accomplished film to boot.  Watch it here.

Mother and Daughter

This is just a short walk cycle I did tonight, needed to get my mind off the film for a few hours.  It was inspired by a mother and daughter I saw at the swimming lesson I taught in New Jersey today.  When I first posted this last night, the mother needed a few more drawings.  Fixed it!  Just for fun, I've also reposted the link to the Father and Son walk cycle from The Parkbench for a little comparison.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Michael Sporn's Parkbenches

Michael Sporn has a really fun post about parkbenches over on his world-renowned "Splog".  Check it out!  This is the kind of thing I like to read.  And it gives me a reason to put up a drawing of one of these NYC parkbenches which I did while researching my first film, conveniently titled "The Parkbench".  Thanks Michael!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Subway 1

One of my favorite things about living in New York is the subway: it's a great place to draw and I've filled up a lot of sketchbooks riding the trains.  This is the first of a continuing series of posts that will show pages from those books.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

WWII Film Backgrounds

In this post, I want to describe our process for creating the backgrounds in our new film.  As I mentioned in yesterday's post, the look we wanted was that of Willem Den Ouden's dark, moody etchings.  Starting with my rough sketches, Iandry and Tom Witte created paintings and drawings for the various scenes.

drawings by Tom Witte

One of Iandry's paintings

Tom and Iandry nailed it, these were exactly what the film needed.  Tom added things like the mist in the trees, pushing me to get that kind of rich ambiance into the whole film.  Iandry's paintings are remarkable; he has that touch with the brush which comes from serious discipline and produces really rich images.

After those were done, I went back over them in Photoshop, building them up by layering the different drawings and paintings together with high resolution scans of granular substances like the pencil shavings, white flour and eraser bits you see here.

I've posted a few of the final backgrounds here.

I wanna send a big shoutout to Alex Fogarty, who taught me a lot about doing this stuff in Photoshop.  Alex was the lead designer who showed me the ropes at Little Airplane while we were working on "The Wonder Pets!"  She was extremely generous with me.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Willem Den Ouden and Iandry Randriamondroso

At one point, these images were what we showed our partners on the film as the final target.  I can see how the finished look of the film comes from them, but at the time I wasn't sure how to get there.  It was like saying "hey look, this is what we can do!", and then realizing you might actually have to figure out how to get there!  Hopefully we got at least halfway there.

The biggest influence for these were the etchings of Willem Den Ouden.  This Dutch artist has an amazing series of studies of what appear to be sky-landscapes.  For the presentation art, I used his prints as placement backgrounds in the images of the levitating soldier and the german looking out across the field.  Here are a few pure, unadulterated Den Ouden prints.

The other images feature dramatic washes by my friend, Iandry, who contributed to this film in a big way.  He can pretty much do it all.  It's just black ink on paper and he's made this very elusive, atmospheric effect that is just perfect.  These are just a few of the paintings he created.

I would be remiss not to show you at least one image by Iandry.  I am sure I will post many more in the future, but for now, here is one of my favorites, a linocut titled "Kalangita".