Production. Lighting and Camera.

As much as I would like to tell you the end of “Love and Afterlove” story, I have to delay the pleasure. The production of the film consumes all of my time at the moment. The winning choice of how to spend the free 5 minutes I have – to clip the nails or write the blog – goes to painting the pictures that I hope to auction off at the fundraising event on April 28th that Robin Hayes so lovingly and skillfully is putting together.
The fundraising efforts have actually distracted me from working on the film for the last 3 weeks. After Noella put the project on IndieGoGo there are always emails to answer, goodies to ship, PR strategies to think of. In despair I am cutting that all off for the next 3 weeks to work on the film, to make sure I still know what’s important (making the film is). 
Miraculously, with all the fundraising fury I managed to make one very important set – the little sandy hill on top of which three structures stand – the house, the barn, the turpentine factory. The hill is surrounded by a pine tree forest and below it a shallow river runs. The set it important because that is where film’s main character Anna gets imprisoned (metaphorically) for some 20 years. The Russians take over the land, then the Germans,  partisans hiding in the forest come to the house to demand food,  then Germans are chased away and Russians take the land back. Historic events mixed with individual’s aspiration to survive. 
Again, as inexpert in lighting as quite a few 2D animators, I had to ask Sturgis Warner to help me with that. Theater and lighting go hand in hand.
– I need day. So that Anna can bring 40 buckets of water from the river to 4 cows, – I asked.
Sturgis came and he gave me day:

–  And now I need night – for partisans. They only move around at night, – I asked.
Sturgis fidgeted with the Impact lights and several filters, till he found the night:

Sturgis didn’t have much to work with, 2 Impact light (which I recommend) and a few old clip-on lights that he sometimes propped against my perfume bottles or peanut butter jars. He was surprised that such basic shoe string operation still made good pictures.
– I guess the rigs don’t matter if camera likes the light, – he concluded.
Here’s his night lighting set from afar:

He also filled the room and bed (where Anna sleeps with her husband when the partisans come back and knock on their window) with moonlight:

Just to show my admiration for Sturgis’ work, here’s the same room in the morning:

Then I dreamed up a shot where the husband sits on the bed and looks at his wife by the window. The focus would change, like in live action films, from foreground to background. The problem shooting the focus change in stop motion was that I would have to mark the focus change on the lens in increments so small I wouldn’t be able to see them, even if I saw them with a magnifying glass my fingers would have to be so small and sensitive that I would have to borrow the fingers from a rat. 
So, after scratching my head for a shortcut solution (am big on shortcuts, look, I shoot on 4’s, that’s the most brilliant shortcut for low budget independent animators) I came up with doing focus change digitally.
I put the camera on tripod, and shot two pictures. First one with bed in focus:

The second – the window in focus:

I put both pictures in After Effects and dissolved one into another. Voila – the change of focus! and no pain. The characters are drawn on top of the pictures and After Effects Gaussian blur is applied to them when they are out of focus. Takes 5 minutes to do it. No rat fingers required.
I did the same for the hill set. This forest spirit walks to the edge of forest and stops by the pine tree. Foreground is in focus because that’s where in-focus character is:

Then the forest spirits looks over to the hill where Anna with two buckets in hands is slowly descending to the river. We focus on what he is seeing:

Notice, how light changed? 
Well, that will be another topic – the flickering of camera (set to total manual!) when you do stop motion zoom. Drives me crazy. If you have a stop motion advise for me, I’ll take it any time. In exchange for an advise on love matters. 

Now I am off to clipping my fingernails, they got stuck in the keyboard a couple of times. Time to separate.

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About rocksinmypocketsthemovie

I was born in Latvia, educated in Moscow, live in New York. I have made about 14 animated shorts so far.
This entry was posted in Fundraising, Hazards of being an artist, The Work in Progress, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Production. Lighting and Camera.

  1. I did theater lighting in school, actually going back to my high school days. Like Sturges, I was very surprised to see how the camera responded to light in ways very different from the stage.

  2. Anna says:

    When it comes to flickering, there’s a few things you can do:

    wear dark clothes
    turn off/ mask your computer monitor (both of these cause light bouncing off things)
    try not to have too many things change with the electrical circuits (like turning on the washing machine, lights, etc)

    there are some more things going on. Some people stop their shutter from shutting completely and do it all digitally, oldschool all manual lenses will help a little bit as well, some have their own small power generators, but those first two will probably have the most effect the easiest. There’s a few plugins in after effects as well, but ive never seen one that actually works.

    Really love reading your blog (and getting all the love advice i need)! Good luck on your film!

    • Thank you, Anna, for your insight and advise! I did tell Sturgis not to wave the remote control to vigorously when we were shooting the zoom, but I didn’t have the convincing authority… Now I do!
      : )
      Also, the hint to the washing machine and the dryer. The refrigerator that likes to turn on and off. Very helpful hints to look into.
      Thank you!

  3. Brett W. Thompson says:

    Awesome!!! Great work, Signe!! I love learning about the behind-the-scenes of films like this. I’m really impressed with your rack focus shortcut!!!

    Your camera flickers though, with stop motion zoom? If you capture high enough resolution you might be able to zoom digitally but I’m sure you thought of this 🙂

    • Brett, the idea to shoot the zoom with stop motion is that when the camera moves, background moves. This is the reason am making three dimensional sets instead of painting them in 2D. It is difficult, though. Not quite my cup of tea…
      : )

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