Saturday, February 11, 2012

Run Morris, Run. Part 1

Hello visitors,
So ever since I posted my latest demo reel from "The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore", I've been receiving a lot of nice emails complimenting and asking me about the spinning house shot, so I decided to start a series of posts explaining the way I approached that shot.
When I first watched the full animatic of the short, a couple of shots stood out to me as "Vague" or "jumpy", and the spinning house shot was one of those shots. For the record, I'm not discrediting our story guys at all, they actually did a phenomenal job turning the boards into a solid animatic, it's just when you watch your own work for so long you lose sight sometimes, and that's why you always need a couple of fresh eyes to judge your work, so here's how the shot looked like in animatic.

You may have noticed that the shot initially was supposed to be two shots, one shot of Morris crashing into the house and popping out of the window then climbing over the roof, and the second shot is a close up of his profile running after his book (Which is off-screen) and slowly revealing the house spinning and reeling in his book. The jumpiness to me was in the cut (Wide shot 3/4 behind to close up on profile) and the vagueness was in the action, personally I didn't feel the importance of that book to Morris, I didn't see how badly he wanted his book back, and he didn't try hard enough to catch it, in short the shot was all about the gags and little about conveying information, so I asked the directors to allow me to take a shot at it and plus it up, and they thankfully agreed.
The points I wanted to fix were clear to me:

1- Simplify the light post crash and Morris's landing on the house.
2- Make sure the book is in frame and show how important it is for Morris to get it back.
3- Get rid of the jump cut.

With all that in mind I made sure that the initial performance wasn't entirely redone, and most of it made it into the final product, after all it wasn't bad, it was just incoherent.
Since I had a clear idea of what I wanted to do with the shot I started reworking the layout and the camera in 3D directly (camera and house only) I figured out the composition, the timing of the crash, the slowing into the spin, how many spins, and how far in the distance do I let it go, all of which is very important specially that the house motion effects Morris's performance a big deal.
I showed the directors my first pass, and they gave me a couple of small notes, I addressed them and kept moving into figuring out the performance.
Animating shots like the spinning house shot can be a nightmare sometimes, high physical action, floating in space, interacting with another floating object with multiple constraints, so I needed to be really organized while finishing this shot, and in order to be efficient I decided to block this shot in 2D -an old trick I learned while working on "Cloudy with a chance of meatballs"-.
I rendered out a playblast of the new layout, and took the frames into a traditional animation software (TVPaint) and I blocked in Morris's performance with drawings and exposures, this way I can communicate my ideas to the directors very quickly and in case of any major notes the fixes can be addressed in no time. So here's my 2D blocking pass.

A couple of thing to note here, The length of the initial blocking is much shorter than the final outcome and that's due to many more notes I got down the road, so if you would like to read more about this shot come back in next week, till then, keep it up.


Lucas said...

Nice work! Thanks so much for sharing this! Looking forward to the next one!

Jamil R. Lahham said...

Glad you're enjoying it.

josh said...

Awesome stuff Jamil, thanks for letting us have a glimpse into this amazing process!

Jamil R. Lahham said...

You're very welcome Josh, I'm glad someone out there is enjoying it.