Thursday, October 18, 2007

Rough stuff

I first want to say ‘Thanks!’ to everybody who’s commented so far. It’s a big help to know folks are pulling for me while I try to make this film.

A few folks mentioned that they thought the new style of the paint animation was maybe a bit “too much”. I do appreciate the feedback and I can definitely see where they’re coming from. In fact I felt the same way years ago when I first started working on the film. But I’ve changed, thought through things more. Now if I hear that it’s a bit too much I reply: “Great! That’s just how I want it!”.

Going waaaay back to the very beginning I experimented a good deal with a painterly style I made this one short test that I felt was pretty solid. But something happened as I started to make the film with that render style. It seemed forced. I think this is because at the time I valued specific, smooth, tight animation over emotional expression. After all I’m supposed to be a good character animator, right? It’s something that I think all Cg animators stuggle with (and perhaps many hand drawn animators struggle as well)- the desire to achieve a high level of technical accomplishment, detail and polish as the primary metric for quality. (I’ll call it the Jungle Book Syndrome. Amazingly accomplished animation wasted on a nothing of a film. Heresy, yes, I know. The line for stoning forms to the left. Be sure to upgrade to the extra sharp rocks, folks!) Being a character animator I wanted to have smooth and clean character animation that wasn’t distracted by some rendering effect. The result was to animate on 1’s with lots of fun little details.

However there was a disconnect that I was feeling between the motion and the rendering. When I watched the rendered scenes with a rough painterly style the animation had a feeling similar to live action run through a bunch of photoshop filters (can we call this the Linklater Style yet?). There was a lack of cohesion. The rendering was expressive, the animation motion was more illiterative. The rendering was calling for something a little less polished. But conventional wisdom (and my understanding of animation at the time) says that good animation is polished animation. So unpolishing the animation couldn’t possibly be the right thing to do. So instead I over polished the painted rendering look, toning it way down.

Now I believe that less literal rendering styles work better using less literal motion styles. That means that if I am going to express a sense of emotion with the rougher rendering then all of those precious little Pixar inspired animation efforts would get lost in the shuffle. So for Version 2.0 0f TSJOM I decided to throw out all of my little animation goodies for the betterment of the film as a whole. There needs to be a balance in all of the ingredients, especially if that balance is a little on the rough side.

From a story standpoint it’s very important to me that this film be rough around the edges. In some way the film speaks to the homegenization of life in modern culture (but not exclusively to this). We’re losing our sense of adventure, our sense of connectedness to dirt, sweat, pain, joy - life. We choose the aenesthitized mediocrity of the branded homogenized life rather than run the risk of being inconvenienced, failing, getting dirty, sweaty or hurt. We choose the safe, the mediocre, the easy (and often the overly expensive thinking that this buys us security). But we also trade in the opportunity to find something new, the out of the way treasures, the different, the amazing- in life, in others, in ourselves. This creeping standard of polished mediocrity infiltrates every area of our lives. Where we live, how we move around, what we wear, what we eat, where we work, how we educate ourselves and our kids, our healthcare, our finances, how we spend our leisure time, our faith, the kinds of people we socialize with - and for those of us who animate, even the style of our animation- all are getting narrowed down to the muddled middle of safe, standardized life. Meanwhile our world grows stale, small and petty and our ability to tolerate that which isn’t juuuuust so wanes- but the grass was always perfectly cut and the stores are clean and (most importantly) we fit in.

Here in western Brazil Dirt is a daily friend. Sweat is Dirt’s little sister and she’s always around. Inconvenience is their tag along buddy. Here life isn’t quite as ‘managed’ as in the states. It’s less polished by far. And while that can be annoying at times, I never doubt that I am alive and connected to this place. Each day I find something that really stinks (sometimes literally!) and something so cool and amazing that I’d never find in my old life back in the U.S. So for me it’s important that TSJOM speaks to this.

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