A description of the process for making the film. Don’t expect many surprises…
Story & Script
The original story was very loosely based on a fairy tale which I can no longer find. In it, a man falls in love with a woman who lives inside of a well and ends up leaving his own family.
My adaptation was a bit bland. So I changed it completely.
I grew up in small-town Iowa on a farm, so all of the imagery for Floods was inspired by that, including the couple years growing up where there were actually massive floods. I have images of my dad having to canoe down the road because it was completely under water.
The script was constantly changing and at some point I really needed to just start animating. This meant I’d have troubles later with mediocre decisions I’d made early on and cost me lots of time fixing.
Always have your script ready first.
Storyboard & Animatic
Because Electricbeard Productions is … small… the boards and animatic were very rough. If you have a team of dozens or hundreds working on a film, everything needs to be polished and crystal clear. When it’s only a hand full of people at most, it ended up working okay for them being extra sketchy and messy.
Shot lists were done quickly to allow for fast and easy changes. They ended up being extremely rough, but functional.
Same with the animatic. This would probably not work at most studios…
Drawings and Sets and Stuff
All of the elements were drawn on paper and scanned.
Puppets were colored and cut out in order to be animatable in After Effects.
The faces of the characters were split generally into thirds – top of the head, eyes down to mouth, mouth down to jaw. I’d then developed a process to use Puppet Pins in After Effects to distort the faces in a way that allowed for fairly flexible expressions.
Environments were drawn the same way – on paper, then scanned and placed into the scene. I’d generally have three main color passes – a solid fill, shades and highlights, then detail pass.
All the elements were drawn separately in order to arrange the set how I wanted. It also allowed me to work modularly and repeat when appropriate.
Once the elements were scanned and colored, I would bring them into After Effects and build the “sets” in 3D (2.5D). This meant some shots had thousands of layers. It was a bad idea, don’t try it.
Once the set was put together, I’d light it and figure out where best to place / move the camera.
Character animation was all done using traditional cutout techniques, only done digitally. I thought this would allow myself and a few assistants to animate the scenes with 5 characters on screen much quicker since we could cheat a bit when characters weren’t the main focus. I’m not sure this thought was accurate as it took me nearly 9 years to finish the film.
There is a piano piece in the film, “Zerbrechliche Schönheit” written and performed by Ryan Hanson. My brief to him was that it needed to be a piece played only with the left hand since the character, Rachel, in one version of the script had a mangled right arm. I’d also planned very meticulously how to rig and animate a 3D piano in After Effects so that I could truly match the music.
This piano ended up being 400+ layers, took nearly a week to rig efficiently so it could actually be animated… and in the end only 5 keys needed to move. Way to plan ahead.
The water was mostly done simply in After Effects with noise mattes and sparkly effects. A couple shots required some reflections. Mostly those sets were duplicated and flipped vertically to imply reflection. One more complex shot towards the end required me to use After Effects’ C4D Render Engine with the reflection option. I simply created a matte where the water was to appear and composited it all together.