Thursday, July 29, 2010

Animation and Design

Hi folks, Nathan here.

Before we even shot the live action elements of The Bayou Blues back in April 2010, we had character sketches and designs which went as far back as March 2009 when Bayou was nothing more than a string of ideas I put down on a notebook in Louisiana. Since that first day, there have been about a dozen designs and redesigns of characters and concepts.
Great animation comes from great design and we've been working since day one to make sure our designs have the best potential.

Here are some of the hundreds of sketches that I have worked with since 2009.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Workflow Stuff

We researched many different potential workflows for RED and Avid and even looked into our options with Final Cut Pro just to compare. I was and still am insistent that Avid Media Composer is the platform with which to edit this film. While Final Cut might be more appealing because of it’s apparent ease-of-use with RED footage, Avid is a platform that I personally want to spend more time with.

There has only been one previous RED shoot at our school, and they cut on Final Cut Pro. Typically, third-year editors are required to edit on Avid. However, the previous film was given a special exception because RED (it seemed) would play nicer with Final Cut. This time, everyone assumed we would cut Final Cut and the faculty would again have to grant an exception. I insisted that Avid would work, and that we should do everything we could to prove that it’s a viable workflow at our school. After all, this is a school, and we should be learning things. It’s not a challenge to do it on Final Cut. We wouldn’t learn nearly as much as we would cutting RED on Avid. Plus, everyone kept saying it would never work and we would end up switching to Final Cut. I want to prove them all wrong.

Anyway, our workflow is basically this.

Raw R3D RED files are duplicated, one set is given to Eric, our director of photography, and the other is given to me.

Eric uses his to do color correction in Apple’s Color program, for later high-res export.

I take my copies and ingest them with REDCINE-X (build 183, in this case) to convert to MXF, AAF, and ALE for Avid. Eric comes in during ingest to make a light first-pass of color correction to get the footage close to his intentions for the final look of the film.

REDCINE-X allows me to create my MXFs in 1080p/23.968fps.

I import the ALE generated by REDCINE-X and relink it to the MXF media. Then I start editing.

Once the cut is done, I export an EDL from Avid. This is where things get a little weird.

Since we’re incorporating elements from multiple sources (RED live action footage, animation elements, visual effects with Adobe After Effects), we elected to use Final Cut Pro as our final conform platform. (This decision was also influenced by the fact that if we wish to finish to anything higher than 1080p in Avid, we’d have to have Avid’s DS finishing system, which neither the school nor any of us have the money to buy or rent.)

So, we bring in the EDL from Avid, relink it with the ProRes 4444 exports that Eric has created with Apple’s Color, and rebuild the edit in higher resolution in Final Cut.

This part is tenuous at the moment and we’re not going to know for sure that it works entirely until we start doing it. Fingers crossed! But we’ll get to that part when we do. For the time being, I’m focused on achieving picture lock by the end of the term…

Friday, April 2, 2010

And it begins...

Welcome! My name is Ben Morris, and I’m editing a student film at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts School of Filmmaking. The film is called THE BAYOU BLUES, and it’s UNCSA’s first hybrid project incorporating traditional, hand-animated elements and characters into a live-action world.

BAYOU is about an old Cajun street musician named Leon who plays a magical accordion that releases free-spirited animated creatures between notes. When a greasy profiteer named Lester gets his hands on the accordion, he releases an animated swamp that takes over his house and threatens to spread through his neighborhood. Leon and his teenage grandson Maurice must find Lester, get rid of the swamp, and get the accordion back.

Because of the animated elements and visual effects requirements of the picture, the film is being shot on RED’s RED ONE camera. This is a unique project here at UNCSA where a standard film-to-digibeta workflow has dominated for years. The school is starting to move in the direction of tapeless digital workflows, but BAYOU is an anomaly (for the time being) and will hopefully lead the school into the future of digital post.

I elected to cut the film in Avid Media Composer. This is a first at our school. Avid is the platform required for third-year film projects, and our one previous RED-based project elected to use Final Cut Pro to edit their film. Avid and RED is an unexplored world here at UNCSA, and our team is very excited to be breaking new ground.

This blog is a record of the process of bringing BAYOU to life, from pre-production to post-production, finishing, and projection. We’re doing a lot of stuff new to us as student filmmakers, and I’ll be keeping track of it all on

A UNCSA School of Filmmaking Student Production
Produced by Josh Dove
Production Designer: Sam Ogden
Director of Photography: Eric Androvich
Edited by Ben Morris
VFX Team : Eric Barker, Brett Price, and Andrew Brzozowski
Written, Animated, and Directed by Nathan Connelly