Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Anniversary - Color and Lighting.

To give The Anniversary that distinct 1950's/1960's feeling, the color choices we made had to be really careful. Agfa film does a lot of unexpected things from my point of view. It desaturates when I would expect it to saturate and vice versa. Everything seems to be tinted warm, but blues can be very vibrant or very grey. Reds can pop right off the page and darks become blacks very quickly.

I posted just a few of the references I gathered below.

Act 01

At the outset of the film, as a viewer we wouldn't be aware that the Old Man was visiting the grave of his wife. That would be revealed in the third act. We set it up to look as if he was meeting his wife at their "secret" spot on their anniversary. I kept the colors warmer but relatively desaturated for Act 01. The Old Man goes about get dressed up for an occasion in positive spirits and makes his way up a hill towards a woman on a bench...

 Act 02

As time passes from one year to the next, we see that the Old Man has lost the vigor of Act 01. I dropped the warmer colors closer to green and lowered the overall ambient light. Where ass my shadows were mostly warm purples, almost browns in Act 01, I start to really introduce cool grays into the scenes and the weather has taken a turn for the worse.

 Part 03

As another year passes, things get even worse. I pushed the saturation and the richness of the shadows in the interior scenes and we took care to show that the house had been neglected as the Old Man lost interest in his yearly ritual and even life itself. It's nice to see the color mood swing from beginning to end here. At his lowest, on the verge of a breakdown at his wife's grave, the Old Woman he passes every year on the bench comforts him and gives him hope. Cue the saturation as the storm clouds break symbolizing a new beginning for them both.

It's a shame were unable to continue this project, but a number of factors got in the way and we had to move on. But that's how it goes and the time I was able to spend on this during my 1st year at Brain Zoo was invaluable to prepping me for so many of the projects that have followed.

Friday, August 15, 2014

The Anniversary - The Cemetery

Walking to the Cemetery

The main outdoor views included a pathway on a hill up to a cemetery, and the cemetery itself. It needed to work as both a stark scene as well as a beautiful scene. I kept the hill pretty open so that the vastness of it could inspire one with wonder or make someone feel totally alone. The other reason is that I knew we'd be revisiting the same locations several times over the course of the short and it would make showing different weather situations much easier with an expanse of sky clueing us in immediately.

The Cemetery

I liked all of the variations for the cemetery, but the two black and white ones didn't feel as grounded in the same world I had been developing as the third one. I had designed them to be more intimate, but that made them feel cozier, and not lonelier and more desolate. I took a cue from my hill design and kept the view pretty open with the color version I've posted. The other odd thing I found is that with the vast expanse, you get a feeling of how small the cemetery is whereas in the black and whites, you never see the perimeter of the property, so it looks like you're just seeing a small part. Obviously, the fence in the color version helped too. ;)

The Anniversary - House Designs.

The look of our short film was decidedly European, particularly Dutch influenced, although we didn't want to call out one particular nationality. We designed the house to belong to someone who lived in a small village. I kept the technology sparse and to help with the dour mood, I kept the lighting diffuse and the windows small. The lighting would be an eternal early morning overcast day.

Master Bedroom

 Eventually, I started to really steep the rooms in shadow with lights that barely illuminated anything. I painted wood materials as dark and rich so they'ed disappear into the shadows.

 You'll notice in several of the concepts that I angled the ceilings often. I found that it made each room feel a bit smaller and more claustrophobic and just slightly chaotic.



View from the doorway.

We played around with the view outside a fair amount since we'd really spend most of our time indoors, this was our only chance to describe the outside world other than the cemetery scenes.

 Closer to the countryside.

 We settled on a location that would be somewhere within the main village.

The Anniversary - The Old Woman - final art.

The Old Woman

Once the face design for the Old Woman was approved, I set about designing her costume. I definitely found her harder to design for as women's clothing often seems to offer infinitely more variety than men's. I tried all sorts of accessories as well -- fancy vs simple, formal vs informal, big vs small -- trying to find just that right look for an old woman who was dressing up to visit her husband's grave, but was no longer in morning and lived very economically.

The Anniversary - The Old Man final artwork.

The Old Man was an easy pick and the wardrobe came together very quickly as well. For a guy going on a solemn occasion, a suit would be fitting. Even though we chose a fairly round face, we kept him lanky and worn.

 My director and I had already discussed color styling for The Anniversary, so I went into the colors with a bit more knowledge than I usually do. The film was going to be a bit of a period piece and the goal was to give it that old 50's/60's agfa film look which was so distinctive of the time.

The Anniversary - the Old Woman.

The Old Woman needed to embody empathy and often when I create characters who save others that are overwhelmed with some internal struggle, I find they can't just look kind and giving, they need to have a little hint of wisdom and experience. The wisdom and experience is what makes it seem like they can help solve "the problem, " and that is always in the eyes. There's got to be that inner strength.

My cartoony faces.

The photo liquify technique.

The Anniversary - beginning a short film.

The Anniversary

The Anniversary is one of the first big projects I worked on at Brain Zoo. It was a serious drama about a man trapped in a cycle of mourning for his diseased wife, but in the end, finds a kindred spirit in the form of a grieving widow. While I started with very cartoony faces, it became apparent quickly that this drama wasn't going to have gags or anything super exaggerated and another style would need to be developed. My director told me not to think of this project as an animated short, but only a film that used cgi. There were going to be a lot of subtle emotions and he didn't want to romanticize the sadness or overplay it.

To develop the Old Man, I knew we needed someone who looked like they'd seen every hardship, so a lot of wrinkles. There also need to be some kind of heaviness or weight to the face, the emotional weight pulling his expression down. A lot of dipping curves and bags of skin.

My first round of sketches as the story was being fleshed out.

Mo (my director) suggested that one way we could create a new look that had both exaggerated elements, but also highly realistic elements was to take real photos of older people and liquify their faces to create new characters. At the time, I was loathe to do this (eye roll at former self), since I felt it would really hamper my creativity, but I never would have gotten such unique results without it. Check it out.

I think of this style as photo caricaturing. The great thing was that the uniqueness of the source face allowed me to create much more unique faces than I could have created just from my imagination. Subtle things, like one eye open more than the other, or slightly lower than the other, all made it in there that would have been generalized out in a much cartoonier sketch. Even the way wrinkles formed became very unique from person to person.