Paul here with a lot to report since my last post. Our research trip to the Carpathians was a great success and proved once and for all that lecturers have a much higher level of general fitness than the youth of today, with myself and Jackie bravely leading the assembled student throng up a mountain with not so much as a nibble on a bar of Kendal Mint Cake. (Although we were forced to eat snow after the gallons of fresh mountain spring water promised by our Turkish/Romanian host failed to materialise. I’d recommend Kendal Mint Cake for future ventures) The landscape was stunning and when not resting, the students collected a great array of visual research material which is already proving invaluable in concept art and environmental design (see below) and should give us an excellent texture library.
Cast news: Steph from our Gregg school contingent has now taken on the additional role of Stina’s Aunt. We have a new character: a boy in the village called “Petov” who we are now looking to cast as soon as possible. We have also started auditioning for the role of “Pipe Catcher”. All other roles are now cast. On the 2d art front, Dan Little our graphic artist has provided us with new logos for “FOAM digital” and “Stina and the Wolf” which are a vast improvement on the ones i knocked out last year.
Along side the production ramp up, we have also been developing a full film quality 720p demo sequence of footage taken from mo-cap right though to finished render and composite; complete with with foley, sound design and music. This is about 80% complete and we will post up the full sequence next month. For now. Here are some stills:
Over the last 2 months the production has grown massively. We’ve had a very productive time casting and doing workshops at the Gregg School in Southampton, who have been extremely helpful in facilitating this process. The part of Stina has now been cast and is to be played by the student Becky Waldron. We have also cast the additional roles listed below. All the actress we saw were excellent and we’ve been feeding back a lot of the ideas explored in the workshop into the script.
Graeme and i have been hard at work organising the production process and writing the script. We have imposed a deadline of Easter for completing the screen-play, which should hopefully give us enough time for all the inevitable re-writes, external feedback and consultation. Graeme has also been doing a stella job on the website and has made what is going to be an essential production tool and hopefully a focal point for all the creative energy expended over the next few years. Please explore all the content we have on the site. We have lots of exciting new animation tests of the environment software we’re planning to use (VUE) and fluid dynamic simulations. Of particular note is Harry’s latest tests of waves hitting a beach which look stunning; Also some splendidly creepy new concept art from Chavdar. The production is intended to be an open process, so we will be updating and uploading new art work, animation and designs all the time. The public will be able to follow the development of the film right through to its world premiere in Leicester square 😉
I’ve also been setting up the VFX pipeline and we now have a good idea how the animation production will work. We have leads in all the main departments and a production coordinator to hold it all together. We were surprised by the number of applicants we got from within the university and are filling up the roles very quickly. We are planning the production to be a rich learning experience for the students involved and hopefully a lot of them will leave it with some good show reel work and a realistic experience of the feature film production environment.
We welcome the following new recruits to the team this month:
Stina – Becky Waldron
Mahdid – Evie Payne
Abriana – Jade Guillford Laishley
Isabella -Steph Chapman
Lia -Eden Glover
Olaf – Lucy Gates
VFX Producer – John House
Lead – Razvan Arventiev
Peter Campbell Smith
Lead – Ollie McDonald
Lead – Marcus Mills
All for now,
Paul Charisse (Director)
So the film is staring to pick up pace with the pre-production now well under way. Some great new talent in modelling and environment areas with Harry Ellard already producing some splendidly dramatic work on the fluid dynamic simulations. The script revision has started in earnest with each revision bringing the themes and characters sharper into focus. The addition of Graeme Herwig as script supervisor has provided a much needed check and balance to my story telling skills and has already added a tremendous amount to the narrative structure and focus. We now have some storyboard animatics and it’s very exciting to see the first glimpses of the music working with the narrative.
We had our first round of auditions yesterday and the quality was frighteningly high, well beyond what we were expecting. Which is going to make choosing the final performers a real challenge.
The main character model is nearing completion with the facial animation system now reaching a somewhat ludicrous level of complexity (i just hope it doesn’t break as fixing it will be a project in its own right) But it provides the functionality to recreate some very subtle performances; useful as we have a fair few close ups planned. The modelling of the final character has sent me slightly do-laly, as getting the specific age with its request subtle proportioning, keeping a certain look to the face and all the animation controls with their deforming muscle volumes has been a nightmare of balancing and revision. Not to mention the accompanying sleep deprivation. I start back at uni lecturing in 2 weeks (actually looking forward to a break from modelling!) so am trying to get this all done by then.
We now have a fairly smooth mocap to rig pipeline worked out, although the cleaning of the motion capture could be fairly time consuming and we’re looking for help on this. We presently have about 10 people on the pre-production team but will be slowly expanding to full production capacity over the next 6 months. All in all the project is going swimmingly but rather a lot left to do 🙂
Finished the first complete series of storyboards. The story arc and characters are now fleshed out and it a comes in at around 246 shots. Should keep us all busy for a while! I’m very happy with how the story and various layers of narration and symbolism have knitted together and am really looking forward to the process of working these scenes up with the actors and also developing some of the visual ideas I’ve hinted at in the boards. The story and characters have come a long way since i wrote the original musical score, so plenty of adjustments will be needed for the final scoring (this was pretty inevitable. Or though the lazy musician in me was kind of hoping it wasn’t !) And I’m thinking of involving some other people in the writing process for a few of the new themes, as I’m much too close to the music now to really know what is/isn’t working.
We’re holding our auditions in September, so should have plenty of stuff to workshop now. The Stina rig is almost finished and will be preparing it for a hopefully streamlined motion capture process over the next few weeks. Also going to start nailing the look of the environment and other characters, as i have the very talented artist Jackie West on as art director. So hopefully we’ll have some great visuals to work from soon.
So, I’ve been working hard on the Stina model the last few weeks. Modelling, rigging, testing and shader writing.
Although she’s CG, i really want her to have a physical and textural presence, so i’ve been working to get the shaders used on her cloths/boots/skin to have a real sense of depth and physicality. This has been a real challenge and pushed my creaking computer to breaking point. Unlike the good old real world, you have to work your arse off in CG to make things look translucent/rough/dirty… anything but smooth and shiny in fact! I’ve posted some eye tests where i’ve been trying to get the translucent jelly like effect of the white around the eye and the glowing gem like highlight you get cast across the iris. She will be doing a lot of eye acting, so the eyes need to really have it. Similarly with the clothes i’ve been experimenting with velvet like shaders to get a touchable, physical sense to the cloth.
I’ve also been trying to get the cloth to react well to the body. As with much traditional sculpture, i want to describe the body and it’s movements through the shape and movement of the cloth . (tests below) it all seems to be going well but has pushed my computer to the point where it crashes pretty much constantly. (Trying to secure funding for some new computer stuff, but as i’m in the education sector.. during a recession.. with a right wing government i’m not holding my breath)
These are admittedly fairly excessive production values i’m attempting.. verging on WETA DIGITAL levels, but as i used to work there it seem only right and proper. Of course, they have hundreds of skilled staff and a massive super cooled render farm. I have my home PCp.c. i bought in Portsmouth 2 years ago, and a dim memory of a well paid over worked job.
On the story front (easy to forget about story, once you’ve been sucked into the mind frazzling vortex of CGI) I’ve started storyboarding, which is a relief from the colourless tweaking of minute variables in digi-land. Its actually a relief to see the story arc and characters coming to life and getting lots of the themes i’ve been mulling over finally fleshed out. Unfortunately my drawing skills have become so god awful that only I’ll ever be able to make sense of the boards. To solve this, I’m planning on poaching a talented student to help me draw them (particularly as there’s about half an hour of them), as a director has, at some point, to start delegating. Even if he is a demented control freak.
Stina and the Wolf is a project to turn a short story into a fully animated 25 minute film. At present i’m composing the music. It’s spilt into 5 movements (i’ve completed 4 so far) , each one based on the 5 acts in the story. Each piece is a narrative and attempts to combine orchestration and leitmotif to tell Stina’s story.
At present these pieces are sketched out on computer but hopefully (if i can organise funding) i plan to record them with a full orchestra. Being entirely untrained and having not the foggiest clue how to read music, I shall be working with a friend to help me through the final scoring and orchestration.
As for the animation itself. I am exploring lots of options at the moment. From full stop motion to painted and CG. I lecture in animation, so have an advantage. But i’m also very keen to involve other people in the process and am presently looking for talented artists to bring their own ideas to the project and help me visualise this world.