Monday, December 10, 2012

Post Production

When I was animating and watching the playblasts of the animation, I felt the timings where good, the actions and movements where not slow or fast...they seemed just about right. Until I started speeding them up in Premiere...

I started editing my movie, and I started this without finishing the animation first, but rather did it along animating, because sometimes whenever I was stuck with something in the animation, I realized that it was better to stop doing it, and start thinking about it instead. So I used the time to focus on something else, and I started playing with speed. 

I found out that if I added a 30% increase in my actions they looked much more intense and believable. This was when I realized that I was animating too slow. Things lacked power and determination, so towards the beginning of scene 3, I was animating everything much faster. And the last shots required a lot less increase in speed. This is probably a very bad way to change the speed, but considering time consumed if I went to 3DS Max and started removing key frames and adjusting this and that, versus the time it took to cut frames out or separate them from the shots to increase the speed of the clip just in some parts, the later was more efficient. 

With this I am not saying that any of these options is just the same. However, considering we have to manage the time we have to complete the project, I think finding faster solutions that produce almost the same effect is learning, and being efficient.

And I edited and edited, and edited so much that my last shot as an example, which was a whole at first, was split in seven different pieces, with different speeds.

In the end, adding speed brought a lot to the action, gave it much more power and more accurately delivered my emotions and reactions.

After this I reduced a bit of the exposure and edited the shadow intensity in of the movie in After Effects and started adding sounds.

At first I had the silly idea of choosing a music that would fit the movie style, and then edit it to follow the action, but this soon proved to be the worst way to give sound to the movie. I think that if you choose a music in a stage previous to the animation stage, let´s say, storyboard, and you plan your shots and animation with the music in mind, is much much easier to just use one music and have the movie follow the beat. But of course, we are doing this to learn and I learned the hard way. 

So, with the help and following the advice of my friend Rui, who is a sound technician, we added some sound effects and some music or background noise here and there. And it turned out to be the more efficient way of having music supporting the action.

I will post the final movie soon, stay tuned! :)

Scene 03 - Le Bank

Finally Flint reaches the performance main stage. Inside the bank is where the story unfolds.

As this scene involved having more characters in some shots, I had to find a way of not having them visible unless necessary to support the action, and at the same time I needed to make the audience aware that there is a undetermined but fair amount of people inside this Bank. And of vital importance, so that I would not have to animate 5 or 6 different characters.

I went ahead and followed Deryck´s advice, and only showed the other characters when necessary. Most of the time my camera just shows Flint reacting to what happens to him along the time he spends in the bank. More on this later.

Entering the Bank was an important moment. In the story board stage, the plan was to have Flint walking towards the ticket machine, that would be out of order, while not revealing the inside of the Bank until Flin realizes that he can´t take a ticket and notices the queues that are a consequence of the machine being broken, and are the main conflict of the whole scene. Initially, this would be shot with a camera slightly behind my character but showing his face so that the audience could see the reaction to the above obstacles.

However, when I placed the cameras in the scene, and started looking for the right angle, I discovered that this scene would work better if it would be a medium shot, from his front. This allowed me to animate the scene in a different way. I was able to make him enter the bank, take a slight look at the inside, but not realizing immediately that there was a lot of people inside the bank. He takes a couple of seconds to realize this, and the fact that the ticket machine is out of order creates the necessary suspense and drama to present the main obstacle of the story.

The next screenshots show the four main points of this shot: 

1 - Slight glance towards the inside, not realizing the queues;

2 - Moment when Flint goes to take a ticket, understands it´s not possible, and thinks about what he had just seen moments before, but did not mind with it;

3 - Moment where he shows he is aware of what is happening, but still can not believe it, but wants to peak at it in a pondering way, like saying "what the hell did I just see?";

4 - Revealing moment. Flint is now aware of what the problem is and will be, and shows it to everyone;

And then comes the revelation of the main obstacle, the queues. The camera changes from a medium shot, to a long shot revealing the whole scenario, by zooming out. I believe this zoom out enhances in the best way the drama of the moment, and it explains very well what the problem is to the audience.

This shot starts a sequence of actions that oppose Flint to a series of obstacles that he needs to find a way of dealing with. First Flint chooses a line after having reacted to the "damn" machine being broken. Then, while in the queue waiting, more people arrive. This action is revealed mostly by Flint´s reaction to the arrival.

 Just then, a new line opens, and Flint notices it. Here I tried to take the audience with me, and show what Flint was seeing, so that I could prepare them for the next shot.

With the action in this shot, the objective is to search for empathy between my audience and my character, by trying to recreate a possible familiar situation that maybe everyone has experienced in some way or another. Flint get´s happy to see that a new line is opening, and that things are going to speed up, and maybe allow him to reach his objective earlier than expected, and he turns to say something to the people that previously were behind him in line, and had arrived later.

He then is presented by an action that can be considered morally incorrect: the fact that people don´t consider the "not written anywhere" rule of respecting the people who have a right to be attended first, since they arrived first. I mean, I have commented on this with several people, and from the small sample, everyone could relate to this feeling because of different reasons, but the important is that they empathized with it.

He then realizes this lack of courtesy (as it is more a courtesy rather then disrespect, moral courtesy), and since it´s the first time that happens, he deals with it and tolerates that it happens, although being slightly frustrated about it.

Then this situation repeats it self. More people arrive, Flint notices it, and a new line opens. However this time Flint has a different reaction. As he is in a hurry, he makes a go for it, and while doing he glances back, just to see that he had been played again. I find that having it happen twice and have Flint react differently to it is funny, but also emphasizes the fact that he is changing according to what is happening to him, and rapidly changing Flint´s emotional state from relaxed to more stressed and aware.

And with the above action comes Flin´t reaction. He expresses a very clear "what the hell" and thinks about it. This is also the moment to make time go by and potentially bring out another feeling necessary in the audience to allow for even more empathy: boredom while waiting in a line that is taking forever, and twice longer if you are in a hurry!

So here I used to shots, one where Flint is trying to see if the line is gonna move soon and another with him just standing, clapping his foot on the ground impatiently. 

And then comes another shift in the action: time went by, Flint is next in line, and just when he is about to say something, the bank employee just closes the line to go for lunch. Here objective was to agitate the action, making Flint react instantly, searching for the shortest line, and there existing none, just quickly moving to one, and swapping lines to whatever one is shorter without the blink of an eye, bringing out a obvious change in behavior, from calm to aggressive.

This was also nice to animate. Challenging, because I wanted to do these movement changes really fast, and when landing having this sort of flexible recoil in Flint as if he was a bit elastic. 

The previous scene also leads the audience to the last but not least conflict and problem in the movie: when both of the only two open lines close, one after another. And after the last one closes, I brought the rhythm to a slower pace, almost like a pause, a dramatic pause, to build anticipation for the comic finale.

In the last 4 shots of the movie, Flint slowly realizes that first, there are no more open lines, second it´s 12 o´clock, so he is out of time, and third he sees the bank workers are just standing and talking there by his side, and he was the last customer there. I believe this is probably the most empathic moment, because we all in different situations on our lives have been screwed like that. 

The last shot is then the ending. I have read that it is hard to end a movie with a punch line comic moment. However, I tried to not reveal or at least not make it predictable at all. Until now I am still not sure if mine worked at all... Anyway, he bursts into anger and waves maniacally towards the bank workers, blind with anger and doesn´t even realize that he is reaching the door and BAM!, the irony.

I thought about several endings, and to be honest I could not see one that would make any more sense than the one I used. Or in this case, not make sense at all and be funny, because it was unpredictable.

Now the real questions here are: have I managed to have the audience with me all the time? Did I bored them? Was my story clear and understandable enough? Has the audience felt empathy with my character?

Asking my self these questions, I don´t have a clear answer to it...

Scene 02 - The Run

Second scene on the movie is a run from Flint´s office to the bank. I wanted to experiment creating a run that would fit most, if not all of my character´s properties. In my movie it´s mainly his visual aspect, however I tried to make it reflect a bit of my character´s personality.

With this in mind, I had to decide the tempo of the run. It had to be fast, silly and it had to bend the laws of physics while at the same time still remain believable. I went for a 6 frames per step run. It´s fast, almost unbelievably fast. Following the line of thought, I then made the distance between each contact position big enough so that it would seem that Flint actually gives a little jump. This distance seemed to big at some points, as illustrated bellow, but it looked good because of the small amount of frames.

One curious thing that happened by chance when deciding the distance he would travel, was that I found a interesting arm and hand position. At first, I planned to do the run with both arms staying behind the character at all times, and only have a small swing when following the opposite leg. But then when I was creating the first and last frame of one step, I had posed the character´s hands and arms randomly behind him, and in a awkwardly high position on the first frame, and when I moved to the last frame, I noticed that in the middle position (frame 3) my character would have both his hands parallel and exactly in the same position.

This just looked so good to me that I decided to only have his lower arms doing the swing, while maintaining the upper arms variation to a bare minimum, thus having the arms and hands behind my character all the time, like I wanted.

I also planned the scenario to have some direction variations, so that I could film it from different distances and perspectives to make the run fun and varied and capture the comic aspect of it. Initially the plan was to make the run along this path and film it all:

However, animating the run was very time consuming, the scenario was big and I would not have time to animate him running the whole distance, so I decided to cut some corners and use my cameras to simulate the feeling of this run being long (enough), and change directions.

So I had 4 cameras, however right now only the first 3 matter.

 One at the door where Flint leaves his office to start the run, and this camera would follow and catch my character doing a direction change by turning a corner. And it would film my character from the side and in the end, a few steps from his back.

Second one perpendicular to the first one and filming Flint after cutting the corner. I used frames from the first run to save time, and I increased the camera distance, but maintained the side view. It captured my character crossing the screen and disappearing. And after leaving the screen he jumps from position one to position two in the screen shot bellow and there starts shot 3 in camera 3.

I then used a Third camera that would be in front of my character and would follow him until he reached the Bank building. The shot starts right after a turn in the sidewalk in my scenario. I was afraid that this wouldn´t look good, and maybe would throw away the audience because it would not make sense in the image sequence, but it turns out that it´s barely noticeable due to the different camera angles and positions throughout the 3 shots. This saved time, work, and still gave the feeling I wanted to transmit.

In shot 3 Flint reaches his maximum speed, and then comes to a slow stop. Looking back at this shot, and remembering what Richard Williams wrote, the camera angle was not the best one. First it´s much, much harder to animate a run viewed from the front and second I think that it does not transmit the feeling of slowing down with the body in the same way as if it was being shot on a more side view. I believe this happens because you can visualize much better the spine movements and the weight shifting involved in the movement of the character trying to slow down his speed. So this is a lesson to next time.

On shot 4, at the bank entrance, Flint is already walking, and I tried to reproduce the feeling of being tired, and feeling the weight of his body on him after such an intense run. Looking at it now, it worked nice, however the shot could use a few more steps, and a bit faster tempo, so that he could drag his feet a sufficient amount of time for this feeling to be convincing.

In retrospective, I feel happy how this scene looks, although now I would animate and shoot it differently.