Wednesday, 14 October 2009

So... where are we again?

Right, it's about time I let you know what on earth I'm chatting on about! Final film? What? Who? Do I care? Well, probably not spectacularly, but if you've meandered onto this blog I might as well let you have a clue.

For the final year of my animation course you are required to make a film, preferably about three minutes long, including all of the preparation work (storyboarding, animatics, scripts etc.) and you are to make it look professional- basically it's a chance to make a proper film that you can go out into the wilderness of the animation industry with and show people in hopes of getting a job/entering festivals and generally use to make a name for yourself. It's also the first real chance we get to make a film that says what we are about, what ethos we have and what kind of work we specialise in. I personally am a bit of a mixed bag- story is incredibly important to me, but I also adore actually animating, doing concept work, character design, almost every aspect of the process. Therefore in my film I am hoping to be able to demonstrate my versatility and also the fact that I am not afraid to push myself to the limits of my my ability and hopefully, but doing so, improve and expand those limits. I am not afraid of hard work, and am genuinely something of a work addict- my housemates rarely see me during the day because I am simply glued to my computer screen or lightbox drawing the life out of my hand. Having said that one of my aims this year is to organise myself in such a way that I won't completely exhaust myself in the process of making the film, despite it being pretty ambitious.

So what on earth is this film that I keep talking about?
Well, the basic story is that there is a flying train, a great, hulking, vibrantly coloured steam train just ploughing along in the sky. This is interesting, but not the actual pivot of the story; the problem with the train is that the steam creates clouds, and the rain that falls from these clouds washes the colour out of anything that it lands on; conseqeuntly people lose their ambition and become depressed, to the extent that almost nobody believes that there is anything that they can do to stop the train and reclaim the colour. The story is about how two characters who still believe it is possible to do something about the situation, a young boy from the village suffering colour loss, and a strange, eccentric young man who is mysteriously still colourful, create a flying machine and go to stop the train.
I shan't say any more about the plot at this point (the very end is still undergoing changes and the script is still in the creation/editing stages), because that wouldn't be as exciting for you when it's finally done, would it? Bwahaha... but yes, I pretty much have the final idea and rough script layed out now. The character designs have been through a slew of different versions (originally instead of a young boy I had an almost middle-aged irish guy called Doyle, but he was too hard to sympathise with and in terms of silhouette was less distinctive that the new character I have), but I'm pretty satisfied with both the style and their overall look now.

If you want to have a look at some of the concept and design work I have been producing I am using this deviant art account to keep track of it and present it online; so please feel free to have a looksy.

We had a five minute pitch session in front of the class last monday to present the idea and let people offer suggestions and criticism, but on the whole the response was relatively positive, and it is really now down to persuading my tutors that teh story can be fitted into the time permitted with the animatic, which is to be presented in about three weeks time.
The main difficulty for this is will actually not necessarily be the artwork and visual editing, which I actually really enjoy doing, but the sound track; sound is absolutely crucial in filmwork, and especially with a film like mine where there are a lot of unusual sound effects and some rather vital dialogue it is hugely important to get it right and to get it as soon as possible. I have already procured a good friend of mine to voice the eccentric young man, Valerian, who will be recording the first rough cuts in the studio at Manchester Metroplitan University under my guidance on Skype (or possibly personally if I have the time to travel up there on the train). For the final recording I will book out the sound suite at Newport so we can spend as long as we like in a good quality sound environment, but that will have to be some time after October as we are both very busy this month.
The main problem will be finding a good voice actor for Warren, the main narrator of the film (the story is largely seen from his point of view). I have called the local junior school in Caerleon and the receptionist is going to let the headteacher get back to me asap, and I hope that they will be kind enough for me to ask the children if they would like to audition for a part in my animation. Hopefully the prospect will be interesting and exciting enough for there to be some volenteers, the worst response would be if nobody came forward at all *nightmares of hundreds of kids just looking at me in a 'what the hell' fashion already haunting my sleep*, but another problem will be how to organise the auditions and how to judge the voices.
It is obviously important for them to have an interesting and clear voice, and a Welsh accent into the bargin would be absolutely wonderful, as it would tie into the overall feeling of the film and aid the story itself, but they must also be capable of dealing with lines, delivering them in the correct manner, and also have a suitable personality to communicate Warren's character and to be possible to work with.
All a little bit risky and resting on sheer luck more than I would like at the moment, but hopefully the future will be kind to me *fingers crossed*. As it is I can continue to work on the script and storyboarding and finalise the designs of the train and flying machine, which I will probably be enlisting the help of a CG animator alumni, Scott MacDonald, that I am good friends with to help with during the animation- having him model the machines and animate them for me to then draw over in the 2D style will make scenes involving them infinitely easier and better executed. I may also be considering contacting an excellent musician that another of my alumni friends hired to produce the backing music for her film, to ask if I can commission him to produce a backing track for my film, though I have yet to decide whether it is actually necessary to have music as well as sound effects for the film. To judge this I will first need to create the animatic with sound effects (and hopefully dialogue), so I can see whether I feel music is needed as well, but being a musician and great fan of film backing music I suspect that I will hire his talents at some point in the process.

Here's hoping for the best of luck! Come on Caerleon Juniors, don't let me down!

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