Phwoar! I’ve had a pretty hectic month travelling to visit family and partying a little too hard with friends, but now I’m back.
I’m looking forward to getting back into the swing of things with the film pre-production over the next few days. I’m still deep in storyboard territory which I’m getting better and faster at. I’ll write a post soon on how I’m drawing the storyboards and the things I’ve learnt in the last month or two.
My new years plan is to update and expand Underground Animation content. Whether it’s reviews of unusual animations, tips & tutorials or just updates on my film, there should be new content on here at least once a week.
I’m also expanding Underground Animation to Instagram and Tumblr. The instagram will be mostly animation sequences and stills from things I’ve found, and the occaisonal photo of what I’m up to. The tumblr will largely be a collection of animation stills, background art, posters and it’ll be a sort of animation inspiration board. I’m not sure how much interest it’ll get on those platforms but if you’re keen have a look and subscribe.
That’s it from me for now. I hope all your projects are going swell and I’ll have more bizarre animation stuff for you soon!
In 1999, following the completion and success of “Neon Genesis Evangelon”; animator, director and actor Hideaki Anno appeared in an episode of the documentary series “Welcome Back for an Extracurricular Lesson, Sempai!”. In the episode Anno travels back to his hometown to teach animation to a class at his old elementary school. The show is super cute, yet hidden within it are several nuggets of wisdom and clues behind the development of Neon Genesis Evangelion, and Anno’s creative process.
Anno turns up to the elementary school looking disheveled and seems extremely awkward around the kids. He seems really genuine and doesn’t try to sugar coat anything for the kids either. At one point a child asks him, “Do you like the anime you make?”. He replies with “Like… well, I like some, but hate others.”. “What parts don’t you like?” asks the child, “The parts where I see myself.” replies anno. He later states “I’m not crazy about myself.” You can definitely see aspects of several NGE characters in Anno, which isn’t surprising as a large amount of the final episode’s material is essentially excerpts from a journal he wrote in during a four year bout of depression.
Later in the episode he goes on to talk about his own aspirations. “I think animation is best for visualizing images that come from inside you. No doubt, you can develop a very individualized expression.”
He also talks about his life growing up the the industrial city of Ube, his background and how he communicates with others. “Answering questions from the children is a type of communication. And my way of talking shows that I am not a person who gives detailed explanations. Do I like this? No, I don’t. Unless they ask why, I won’t go any further.”
By the end of the two days of teaching simple animation, taking field trips to his parents house and old haunts; he seems a lot more comfortable around the kids and opens up a bit. He tells the kids before leaving, “I hope you have each gotten something out of this. keep these feelings dear to you and try to think of and search for your own answers.”
The short video is inadvertently a fairly comprehensive look into the mind of one of 20th century animation’s greatest creators. Check it out.
When asked about why he chose crowdfunding over more traditional funding methods, Svankmajer stated that “It gets increasingly difficult to fund independent art that scrutinizes the very core of our society. Who would deliberately support their own critics? We make a film every five or six years not because of a lack of ideas, but due to the lack of funds to back up our projects. Our hope is that crowdfunding may be the way to change this. The initial $150,000 we aim to raise on Indiegogo will enable us to start shooting with live actors; eventually, we will need to raise far more in order to complete the animations and post-production.”
The film will be based on the satirical Čapek Brothers play, Pictures from the Insects’ Life. Svankmajer has stated that “The Čapek brothers’ play is very misanthropic. I’ve always liked that — bugs behave as human beings, and people behave as insects. My screenplay extends this misanthropy further while also reflecting Franz Kafka and his famous ‘Metamorphosis.’”
“To those of you who choose to support our effort, I want to thank you. I promise you that I will invest my entire body and soul into this last feature film of mine. After all, that’s the only way I know how to create.” (JŠ)
I’m really looking forward to seeing what Svankmajer accomplishes with Insects, but also sad that this will be his last film.
After 8 treatments and 26 drafts, I’ve finally finished my animated feature screenplay!
It took me longer to write than I expected, or planned for, but it’s the first feature screenplay I’ve written so I needed to learn a huge amount.
It clocks in at 76 pages which is pretty short for a screenplay. The standard rule for screenplay/film length is that 1 page = 1 minute of screen time. However, this isn’t a hard rule and depends on a few factors. Mamoru Oshii’s 1985 animated feature ‘Angel’s Egg’ has a runtime of 71 minutes, yet the screenplay was supposedly only 1 page long. It really depends on the film’s style and format. My screenplay has pretty minimal dialogue and concentrates more on visual storytelling, so I’m expecting the finished film to run 80/90 minutes.
So now I’m moving on with the rest of pre-production, at the moment that’s storyboarding and art design. I’ll update more soon :D
I’m about to begin story-boarding so I’m currently looking into what aspect ratio to use for my film. Although it seems like a it’s pretty small and inconsequential decision, it will impact how I compose and edit the shots and the overall look of the film. It’ll also be really hard to change even half-way through pre-production.
Everything I’ve previously worked on (except for a few old 4×3 projects) has been 1.78:1 (or 16×9). This is pretty much because 1.78:1 is the main standard for HDTV and web based videos these days, so it has almost become the default choice. However, there are some other aspect ratios that are worth looking into.
There have been many aspect ratios used throughout the history of cinema. Here’s a great video from FilmmakerIQ on the history of aspect ratios for those interested.
I’ve also found a great vimeo channel called Unsusual Aspect Ratios which highlights the diversity of aspect ratios people are using out there.
Most contemporary feature films use one of these three aspect ratios:
2.39:1 – ‘Scope’
1.85:1 – ‘Flat’ or ‘Theatrical Widescreen’
1.78:1 (16×9) – HDTV
Of course there are exceptions to this, such as Mommy (2014) by Xavier Dolan which is mostly uses a 1:1 square aspect ratio, or The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) which changes between 1.37:1, 1.85:1 and 2.35:1. These rare aspect ratios are interesting but I’m mostly interested in using the 2.39:1 ‘scope’ and 1.85:1 ‘flat’ aspect ratios. There are several pros and cons to both which has made it pretty difficult for me to decide on which I want to go with.
2.39:1 ‘Scope’ aspect ratio (sometimes referred to as 2.35:1) gives a wide field of view which is great for panoramic shots, landscape shots and tight close-ups. The wide frame can lend your cinematography theatricality and gravity.
The cons of 2.39:1 lay in distribution. Depending on your digital distributor, your film may be required to be ‘pan and scanned’ (cropped) down to 16×9. This is unacceptable as it will ruin the framing of your shots completely. Thankfully this seems to be getting less common as digital distributors are happier letterboxing the film to fit 16×9 screens.
1.85:1 ‘flat’ is wide yet not excessive. It’s the middle ground of theatrical aspect ratios. It is also close to 1.78:1 so on 16×9 screens the letter boxing is minimal or optionally (but in-advisably) you can cut a little off the sides to fit the frame.
One of my initial hesitations for using 2.39:1 is that until pretty recently there just isn’t that much animation done in that aspect ratio. Some early Toei animations such as Magic Boy (1959), as well as the more recent Evangelion 3.0 (2012) used 2.39:1, however nearly all theatrical anime has, and continues to use 1.85:1 ‘flat’.
With the exception of a couple of 2.39:1 Disney animations such as Brother Bear (2000) and Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001), the majority of Disney films were shot in their preffered aspect ratio of 1.66:1.
Another rare example of 2.39:1 aspect ratios being used in animation is M Dot Strange’s feature films We Are The Strange (2008), Heart String Marionette (2012) and I Am Nightmare (2014) which all use the 2.39:1 aspect ratio.
Many of my favourite western and independent animations had extremely tight budgets, so they tend to be a mix of 1.37:1, 1.66:1, or 1.85:1, such as Fantastic Planet (1.66:1), Midori (1.37:1), Hair High (1.66:1) and Alice (1.37:1).
DISTRIBUTION AND EXHIBITION Let’s look at the DCP frame sizes.
. Flat (1998×1080 or 3996×2160), ~1.85:1 aspect ratio
. Scope (2048 x 1080 or 4096×1716), ~2.39:1 aspect ratio
. HDTV (1920×1080 or 3840×2160), ~1.78:1 (16×9) aspect ratio
The majority of my audience will access my film through VOD or from downloading it, which means the film will most likely be watched on TVs or computer monitors; the majority of which have an aspect ratio of 16×9. This means that if I went with 2.39:1 for my film, most people will see the film letter-boxed. Letter-boxing isn’t such a big deal for me (I actually kind of like it), so I’m not going to let that influence me.
What could influence me is if a distributor makes me crop the finished film to 16×9. That would be the worst possible scenario for a 2.39:1 film. While it’s worth considering hypothetical situations and problems that may come down the line, it isn’t enough to sway me. It also seems to be coming less frequent as network bandwidth’s improve across the globe.
TESTING ASPECT RATIOS I’m instantly drawn to the 2.39 scope ratio. But is it the right choice for my animation?
To help me decide I made some 1.85:1 and 2.39:1 (or 2.35… whatever!) viewers from cardboard and duct tape so I could frame some shots and find what feels better to me.
I framed multiple shots of various types to get a feel for the frame ratios. I looked at framing human figures, objects and landscapes in Extreme Close-ups, Very Close-ups, Close-ups, Medium Close-ups, Mid Shots, 3/4 Shots, Long Shots and Extreme Long-shots and in a wide variety of angles.
Sketch by Jared Brown
THE VERDICT The shot framing tests pretty much just confirmed what I already thought.
1.85:1 is a solid aspect ratio. It excels at framing MCU’s, CU’s, MS’s and 3/4 Shots. Framing long shots or ECU’s with it is ok, but it has less room to create interesting compositions. I feel that this aspect ratio would be great for framing scenes inter-personal conflict and intimate subject matter.
2.39:1 was good at framing at CU’s, MCU’s, MS’s and 3/4 shots but it was a little harder to frame them effectively due to it’s width. This aspect ratio was excellent at ECU’s, LS’s, ELS’s, panoramic and scenic shots. The 2.39:1 aspect ratio will be great for impressive scenic shots, grand, intense or epic subject matter as well as dynamic compositions.
Ultimately (as you may have guessed), it really just comes down to taste. What kind of film do I want to make? What kind of actions will be occurring on screen? What kind of cinematography will suite the style and content? What am I most comfortable using?
After thinking about this for some time and swaying back and forth multiple times I’ve decided to go with 2.39:1. The wide frame gives heaps of room to create dynamic and expressive shot compositions. I also feel that the wide frame will suite my film better, as the subject matter is intense and will contain a fair amount of large set pieces and spectacle.
Maybe I overthought this, but as it’s something that will be hard to change once I’ve begun, I thought I should really try to figure out what I wanted. I hope this helps any other filmmakers or animators out there trying to decide which aspect ratio they want to go with. If you have any questions hit me up.