The Fete de l’Anim is a 5 day festival in Tourcoing and Lille, France, and every year in addition to film screenings and masterclasses, they put on an animation marathon. This is a 2 day contest where teams of three from European animation schools are tasked with creating 10 seconds of animation in any style they wish starting and ending with an image they are given right at the beginning of the contest.
Isabelle Kniestedt, Jeroen Koffeman and myself of the MA of Animation course represented AKV St Joost, Breda. We were given an image by illustrator and director Frank Dion. It was a really nice day and we’d already had the idea to try to do something outdoors, instead of being at our computers all the time. When we saw the image I thought about the films of David Russo, from Seattle. Sometimes he uses a technique of replacement animation in a natural environment, like in his film ‘I Am Not Van Gogh’:
We also decided to concentrate on the ‘baby catfish’ character in the photo, as it is what our eye was instantly drawn to. The 10 second clips will end up being strung together, and we noticed while watching last year’s compilation that the ones that worked best focused on the most obvious character, rather than a character in the corner or background. This is because the eye has such a short time to focus that it costs precious seconds to move away from the main subject.
So we decided to use an anchor a sequence of the cat fish ‘swimming’ in a real environment.
Isabelle and I immediately went scouting for locations in the nearby town of Tourcoing and we found a round fountain near the main church, We felt this was appropriate because in the image there is water outside the window, and the catfish is jumping from a water-less fishbowl. Perhaps our concept could be that the cat fish was looking for water?
We also realized that with only 10 seconds we should stick to one location, and a simple movement. We would need about 2 seconds at the beginning to transition from the image to the location, and 3 seconds at the end to go from the location to the image. That left about 5 seconds for the main action.
Because of our different skill sets, and Jeroen and Isabelle’s skills in 3D animation, we decided to end with a 3D environment. Jeroen, with Isabelle’s help, would create a 3D model of the cat fish. We would cut to this from the outside scene, and it would morph into the final photo. Since Jeroen was creating the 3D model anyway, we decided to use that model to create the movement of the fish around the fountain. From these frames we created 25 or so big paintings of the movement of the catfish.
We brought these paintings to the fountain the next day along with my camera, tripod and laptop with Dragon software. Turns out, we picked the day of the local market! The fountain was surrounded by stalls, but luckily it didn’t impede our shoot. It was also very windy. At one point a big gust of wind blew away our stack of drawings, and some of them were christened by water, but luckily they were the paintings we had already shot.
Isabelle graciously acted as ‘easel’ and held each consecutive drawing as I directed her in exactly where to hold it. I was looking at my computer monitor with the onion skinning option to determine the exact position. In this way when the frames are played back you can see the cat fish swimming through the various large pieces of paper, while the fountain and city continue their fast paced life in the background.
We also encountered some challenges with lighting. It turns out that unbeknownst to us when we started shooting, the sun was hidden behind the church steeple. 15 minutes later it revealed itself and the lighting changed completely. I concentrated on color correcting the actual drawings, so that the eye following the movement is less distracted by the lighting change in the rest of the photo.
Something else we learned from observing last year’s compilation was that you often could not tell when one segment had started, because the films moved off so quickly. We decided to allow one second at the beginning to focus on the image, and then we physically zoomed into the cat fish on a print out of the image, to keep with the hand made feel of our project.
After that the only thing left was for Jeroen and Isabelle to finish animating the ending segment. As you can see the cat fish jumps into the fountain. At this point we switch to a 3D environment, where the fountain becomes the fish bowl, the catfish begins to jump out of the fish bowl, and that’s where it morphs into the final photo:
We’re quite happy with the results and best of all, it was a lot of fun. Best part was being surrounded by other animators the whole time. Though at first there was a little bit of a competitive feeling, with the team members keeping their ideas close to their chests, by the second day everyone was walking around, checking out each others’ projects.
Only one other team out of a total of 18 left the building to make the film, and this was the MOME team from Budapest. They used a yarn puppet of the bird in the photo, and had him travel around the town of Tourcoing before jumping back into the image. Ironically, I had just met a few of the MOME students a few weeks ago on my tour.
Most of the other teams were from BA courses, we were one of the only Masters courses. Also most of the teams used digital drawn animation for their segment, either in TVPaint, Photoshop or Flash with a few teams using hand drawn animation scanned one page at a time, stop frame cut-out animation or 3D software.
These were the other schools represented – we were the only Dutch school!
La Cambre (Bruxelles)
3axes Institut (Tourcoing)
Pôle IIID (Roubaix)
Supinfocom (Valenciennes) – 2 équipes
Anglia Ruskin University (Cambridge)
Southampton Solent University (Southampton)
When we receive the full composite I will of course post it here.