Thursday, August 07, 2014

Unexpected Collaborations: Sweetfighter process

Earlier this week I posted up about the video campaign we worked on for the University of Sydney's Charles Perkins Centre. As briefs go this was a treasure to work on. The campaign centres around the theme developed by The Monkeys, of 'Unexpected Collaborations', as the centre fosters collaborations across deliberately diverse fields to encourage progressive research and teaching. With this theme in mind we brainstormed ideas using a visual play on the subject matter that would allow us to tell these stories in an engaging but informative way. The concept for Sweet Fighter (diabetes experts working with gaming programmers) was to focus on the theme of balance as it relates to diabetes and the constant need to keep blood sugar levels in check sometimes with the aid of insulin. Balance also tied in well with the other half of the collaboration - gaming - as there's often a sense of using physics and balancing interactions in gameplay.

The end product (view video here) is a series of carefully balanced sets/still lives incorporating fruit, vegetables, sugar and medical paraphernalia. We wanted to continue on the theme of unique insights coming from unexpected collaborations by also including a visual play at the end of the video that would hopefully surprise the viewer and have them question what they were viewing. With this video the mirrored reflection reveals itself to be a whole different world - another nod to gameplay and virtual realities.

We thought it would be nice to share the process behind making these videos as we always enjoy seeing the behind the scenes of other animations and the steps in getting to the final product. Also we had a lot of fun with this project so it's nice to have a record of how it went! For this post i'll focus on Sweetfighter and follow up with Robocrop.

Below are some of the very first storyboard frames created for the pitch. Early on in the pitch process we decided that a mixture of stop motion and live action would be the best way to handle the production as timings were tight. I think in all we had 3 weeks for pre production and shoot (3 days) so a full stop motion production would have been impossible.

It was important that we use as many found 'ordinary' objects as possible but have them behave in unconventional ways e.g. the glowing mechanised plants, bouncing ice creams. Not just thinking laterally but behaving laterally too so to speak. So it wasn't going to be a case of fabricating our props from materials like paper/clay etc like we had done in the past. Initially we thought this would make pre-production simpler. As long as we could source the objects we were fine. But after thinking through the sets (3 alone for the Sweetfighter) we realised how wrong we were. We were going to be dealing with a lot of fresh fruit that needed to be attached together without spilling their guts onto the set, make semi-solid jelly that could be used structurally and figure out how to make ice-cream that wouldn't melt on set and could be manipulated for stop motion.

Luckily the internet taught us how to make fake ice-cream (frosting and a lot of icing sugar) and we had access to Barnes nearby and found jellywax. What turned out to be the trickiest set to make was the first scene and the fruit molecule. We had about three goes creating the sculpture, the first to test the technique of connecting the parts, the second on set for the pre-production shoot to test the rotating base and then on the actual day we had to make it again from scratch. Timing was important so we had a lot of back up fruit raided from the all the supermarkets and green grocers in my neighbourhood plus Paddy's markets. After a near meltdown at one point when I couldn't find a perfectly round and green melon I went upstairs to the supermarket and found the mother lode of perfectly sized round melons. We came home with about 5 and used 0 in the end.

The rigging for the props was one major hurdle especially with the fruit. We thought gluing might work which shows what complete DIY non handypeople we are, but luckily had skewers on hand to spike them together. With clever rigging designed by Mel Pragassen for the spinning hoop (disco ball) and turntable we were able to make the first scene live action.

The next two set ups were a mix of stop motion plates comped together and a bit of live action to capture the exploding balls. With a lot of elements made to look like they are floating in the air rigging turned out to be a bit of a headache! Charlie, Sam and Maricor did a great job on the rig removal. The shaky behind the scenes video of the spinning molecule above and the photo below shows how much had to be cleaned up for the finished video.

So that's how we made Sweetfighter, next up will be Robocrop!

No comments: