To my great astonishment we have only 2 more shots to go! With some masterfully quick animating we have managed to be a day ahead of schedule which is immensely exciting. I thought I would show my workings on the set so far (some of which is copied from the production blog, sorry to cross-post) and some animation shots!
After discussing the narrative and overall feel of the film I began to do some research and compile a mood board.. Because the story was about someone being lost in a forest I wanted to make the set look tall and imposing to emphasise that feeling of loneliness and fear. I also wanted to make it look sharp, dead, unwelcoming and unfeeling to contrast with the character who is living, young and fearful. I was playing with ideas of colour but from my research I decided to make it as white as possible to emphasise the characters movements, and to show that he is the only living moving thing in this harsh dead environment. For the same reason I decided to explore using sharp geometric shapes for the trees and rock formations.
I set about testing some methods of making trees as this would be integral to the overall look of the film and it would inform my process so that I knew how to construct the set. I then made a list from the animatic of which set pieces were required and which should be given priority in terms of building. I began blocking out the main set piece and capturing through lens look tests for reference. I then measured the blocked out set in order to create a diagram from which to work. I then cut some wood to size and drilled in some tie down holes to fit the diagram. I used chicken wire to create the hills and cliffs by stapling it to the wood to give it the right basic shape.
I then went about attaching some wire to the chicken fence hills and cliff to support the trees which were to come later. I covered the chicken fence hills with wadding so that it would appear smooth once I put the top layer on. I attached foam blocks to the active areas of the floor and cliff as we are using pin tie downs. Initially I threaded wire through the blocks and the table but realised that this would be too unstable and so later attacked them with a glue gun. I applied paper mache to the cliff set piece and painted with a white basecoat. I then mixed PVA glue and acrylic paint with some sawdust and applied this over the basecoat to give it a rocky texture, then sponged a lighter shade of grey on top to give the illusion of depth. I am using a bed sheet for the top layer and after some experimentation decided on using blue and silver spray paint on it to help define the contours of the hills. Also to apply white snow flock and glitter on top of this with spray mount as it looked good under camera and conveyed the frozen snowy feel I was looking for. I then attached this top layer to the hills and floor with spray mount. I began mass producing foam trees to populate the landscape but I still think I need a few more. I have recycled some old sandy mountain set pieces from around the studio and spray painted them with white and silver and used white acrylic on the top. I think they look ok but they do interfere with the scale somewhat so I may swap these out for layered 2D foam trees as was the initial plan. I can use them later for the extreme long shot overlooking the town. I did some look and scale tests against the puppets and in response to this made some bigger trees to go in the foreground to keep the illusion of depth.
I had to do some more impromptu repairs to the set as I realised that the trees weren't strong enough despite sureing them up with more wire.'. The back ones didnt matter as much but the one at the very front was liable to be knocked during shooting and in its current state that would have been disastrous so with Mary's help i came up with a plan to make it more stable. I used a small block of wood to sit above the top layer and used a long screw to go through the empty space beneath and screw directly into the wood base to create a stable platform to work from. I then stuck some barbecue skewers into polymorph and glued this up the length of the tree, and then used a glue gun to attach the whole thing to the wooden block which I then hid with cotton wool.
I then set about making the 2D background layered trees. I measured everything out to fit the set, taped A4 card together to create the right length, sketched out the trees and cut all 3 layers out with a scalpel which took 2 days. I then made the cardboard backing which would allow it to stand up in its staggered formation and stuck the card trees to the front with PVA glue. This inexplicably took a further 2 days. I then put the trees in the set and covered any exposed cardboard with white paint. I tied everything down with wire and clamps (I think we have used every single clamp in the studio now) and then lit the set with additional lights and gels. This took some time as there were many shadows to contend with and we needed to make sure both characters were properly lit as they moved through the set. We also had to make sure that the colour temperature didn't differ too much from the background to the foreground as we have both orange and blue gels on different parts of the set. After some more look tests we blocked and doped out the action and are now in the process of shooting!
To create the hilltop set piece Roos made a wooden structure and attached some chicken wire and moulded it to a rocky shape as I was animating that day. I then attached some foam on the areas which were to be animated on and then covered all of it in paper mache and the same PVA, paint and sawdust mix to match the cliff. I am now almost done building the final long shot which is a view out over a hilly valley. As you can see I've used the same chicken wire, wadding and top layer technique as I used on the main shot and I have applied the same paint & flock finish. It is not stapled to wood as before because there is no motion going on around it, its just there for set dressing.
And here are some production stills to prove I've been working. I'm in school, mum, honest :) The headtorch was necessary to see where the holes were for the Fox's pin tie downs. The set it lit by 5 lights for the main shot so I cast a shadow when I move in to animate and otherwise I can't see what I'm doing!
Stop-motion animator and model maker with an interest in documentary film-making.