So, with endless meandering traffic jams, clogging the entrance to Cardiff city centre, the heating on full pelt, and what seems like a lifetime of 80’s festive hits declaring marshall law on the playlists – it can only mean one thing… T’is the season to be Jolly!!
The perks of endless supplies of Yuletide stolen, mince pies, and brandy butter aside! This means here at Girl & Boy, we get to gather around the hearth, with a sherry, and conceive our annual Christmas card.
This year, we decided to go all out and create a short film. Realising that a full blown remake of “It’s a wonderful Life”, was off the cards, owing to the fact that time was against us, none of us are fans of the whole Hollywood “re-boot” mentality, and mainly because our acting would be hammier than the finest of all the Christmas indulgences! We instead opted to create a stop motion animation…
Short of biro scrawled flick books as kids, none of us had any experience of stop motion, so we explored a few simple ideas – it would have to be simple, because it was our first attempt, right? Well, in a way. We began by downloading a great little app, as a tester, and filmed a few ad-hoc sequence’s of inanimate objects, such as pencils, rubbers, and all manner of office based sundries migrating from one end of our desks to the other. We played the results back, and chuckled at the ropey, but never the less magical sense of movement that was produced – we were sold.
As is usually the case, when we got cracking, our processes, evolved, and before we knew it – paper props, suddenly transgressed into wood, iPhone apps morphed into industry standard stop motion software – specifically the one used for Ardmann Animations, Tim Burton productions et al… and our initial musings of using our warm lighted halogen desk lamps to set the scene, saw us making a trip to Cardiff stage lighting, going through lighting gel swatch books to ensure we got the effect we were after.
We hit the workshop, enlisting the help of Lex’s dad, who is a master craftsman (Funnily enough, Lex always had the best projects, and top marks in woodwork in school ;)), and turned an old door frame, and scrap mahogany into 2 wooden soldiers, and 26 cones, which would act as incremental movements for our christmas tree sequence. The rest of the props for the sequences, we cracked out the Swan and Morton blades, stripped the shelves at Hobbycraft bare of supplies of pastel coloured cards, and worked away like Christmas elves to complete all our props, and incremental phases of our animation.
When the morning arrived to start filming our sequence we were like coiled springs, filled with excitement and raring to go – fast forward 12 hours, and the enthusiasm dwindled slightly, especially when almost finishing a sequence, we kicked a tripod, lighting failed, or a battery kicked it, and yes, you guessed it, starting scenes from scratch requires patience to the level of which… well, lets just say we need more practice in that department. Around 30 hours or so later, we had it, our first stop motion animation, in all it’s raw glory, ready for a bit of post production work in After Effects & Premier Pro, to tie the scenes together, tidy up the odd rough edge here and there, and ensure a consistency in the look and feel throughout.
To say we were over the moon with what we had achieved in such a short space of time was under statement! Whilst we know it wasn’t perfect, and there are things we would have done differently, such as not spray painting the wood for instance, in hindsight we felt that leaving our soldier wooden, would have felt more authentic, and honoured the integrity of the material, but also the spray paint we used was evil, it never really dried as advertised, and nearly botched things completely – but we got there. All in all, what was great about this, is that we pushed outside of our comfort zone, to push out own boundaries and learn something new, we are big protagonists of a hands on approach to our work and can’t wait to get cracking with our next stop motion – look out Hollywood, you are firmly in our sights.