Animation Production Diary – Let there be light

Scene Twenty-Seven pencil test without and with background.
Sometimes I think I don’t like myself. A short walk cycle? Okay. Turning on a light switch? Okay. All from a birds-eye view? Sheesh. Capturing the angle was very challenging, the original pencils were close but felt slightly off so I needed to transform the frames digitally with skew and perspective. 
But it felt right, having a distance at the end, we have observed and we must not forget that we are observers of an autonomous life. The Melancholic Wife is in her power, she does not need us. 
I asked Sadhbh to make two versions of the background, one with the light turned on, one without. There is a prop to be added as well, a notebook and pen that sit on the table. A gentle zoom into the Melancholic Wife and the notebook will be added in tandem with a fade up to white. Also shadows, I do think I have something against myself!
Scene Twenty-Seven digital inks without and with background.

Animation Production Diary – Of magic dust and doors

Having reached apotheosis through a conquering of the dark the Melancholic Wife is ready to return to the ‘unromantic walls of her real life’. But first she’ll need a doorway and one dutifully manifests from the dissipating energies of her embracing and dancing with the light. The main task of these two scenes was an exercise in special effects animation. The light effects that create the door and the few small sparkles that enter through it in the following scene were all animated directly in Photoshop, no pencilling involved this time. The animation of the door itself appearing will be done using masks in After Effects as will the animation of the door opening, using the corner pin tool.

Scene Twenty-Three digital inks.
Scene Twenty-Four digital inks and pencil shaded background.
The rendering of the background of Scene Twenty-Four was created by Sadhbh Lawlor over an A3 printed copy of the original inks. Sadhbh has a very strong ability in achieving tonal depth with pencilling and I wanted to pursue this style to create a strong contrast with the simple backgrounds of the dream space. The shading also mirrors the shading of the claws which grab the Melancholic Wife, indicating that though they are imagined, they draw their strength from real experiences.

Animation Production Diary – Grace and Poise

The Melancholic Wife has drawn the white light to herself with the aid of her ghost and now comes the first moment of exploration and play. She perceives the boundaries of her form in a new way, we see her twisting her hand, feeling the glow that surrounds her and its flow through the space she inhabits. We follow the arc of her rising hand until it meets its twin. There the gathering energy pushes them apart and she has to find the determination to control the power within her.

Pencil test.
Final inks.
This scene was heavily influenced by the desire to capture graceful balletic movement, and in part inspired by early reference like the short film Ballet Rotoscope by Masahiko Sato and Euphrates.

Animation Production Diary – Slow it down Scene Eighteen

Scene Eighteen represents something of a breath. There are a sequence of cuts before it between short scenes communicating lots of information and the scenes after it rise up again towards the crescendo of the final dance. So it’s a chance to breath, take a metaphorical pause and have a slow moment to contrast with the quick. The Melancholic Wife’s arms raise steadily, opening up to her power, opening up to the audience.

Pencil test alongside digital inks.
Animation placed in background. Further animation on the background including the spotlight drawing in, focusing on MW and emanating in a glow around her and a ghost clip will be added in compositing.

Animation Production Diary – What’s the collective noun for a group of ghosts?

The ghosts, as I call them, first appear in scene seven to correspond with the line; ‘…when she thought about the teenager she had been’. They represent an attempt to express a younger possible self, the adult looking back at herself with compassion, and as such a gateway to possible contentment. One of the ghosts will join the Melancholic Wife in the darkness in scene eleven as a symbol of the connection to this gateway out of the blackness so it felt important to keep them feeling light and unburdened by the weight of gravity. They needed to be instilled with a sense of carefree joy to contest the heavy, laden aspect of the dark thoughts.

 
My first ghost pencil test with subsequent digital inks.

A second spinning ghost, the pencil test for this was drawn as thumbnails in an A5 notebook as seen below with the next ghost.
 
An example of the pencil thumbnails for the ghosts along with an inked test of a ghost rising with a slight turn then settling.
All of these ghosts were combined for scene seven with the timings shifted slightly on the same actions to differentiate, the ghost rising animation was re-used the most because of it’s various, differing actions and longer length.
The finished scene with layers of ghosts added in. I changed the opacity on a downward scale from the front to the back of the scene.

Animation Production Diary – Short but nevertheless important

There are a few scenes dotted through the animatic that could be described as very short and scenes five and six would fall under that category, comprising a total of three seconds all together. Scene five is a simple step into the ‘ghost room’ and scene six follows it up with a short glance up from our protagonist as she spots the ghosts.

While short they are important, scene six bridges the story from the frantic run that preceded it to the more serene atmosphere of the ‘ghost room’. I felt it important to have her step even once, rather than just have a more easily completed hold, to represent the dissipation of energy from the mad dash.

One small step for the Melancholic Wife…

The glance upwards then has to communicate an emotional shift, I wanted to portray a graceful arc to her movement and emphasise the flow of her hair to preface the floating light tone of the dancing ghosts who are about to appear on screen. I learned the importance here of not underestimating any scene no matter the length and its potential to keep a story continuum on track.

This scene is also the first and only real close-up of the character so I really wanted to communicate her poise and character as much as possible.

Animation Production Diary – They need to look like lady hands

The action in scene ten involves a close up of the Melancholic Wife reaching up to try and bring a ghost with her as she is being pulled down. The ghost represents a positive memory of her teenage self, an instance not weighted down by the same troubles as her adult self, and the effort to carry it with her into the darkness is an attempt to accept this positive aspect fully into herself. As such I feel the movement needs to be gentle, soft and kind. She is not grabbing the ghost, she moves to embrace it and ask for her help.

For reference I took a video of my own hands but of course they need to look like a woman’s hands so the theme of this scene was softness all round.

Hands
Ghost
Both together