Friday, November 2, 2007

Animation News

TITLE: The Itch
Joe Green
JUL 2006


Joe Green completed The Itch for his degree in computer animation at the National Centre for Computer Animation in Bournemouth, England. The 22-year-old artist, originally from St. Albans, now lives in London, where he works on film visual effects at Double Negative.

The Itch is a fun little piece that puts across a simple idea in a simple way that actually resonates at a deeper level. The Itch is an Annoying Persistent Presence, standing equally well for an obnoxious acquaintance that won't go away, or a sickness you can't shake, or a compulsive behavior or addiction, or even age. I think that's the beauty of the film's approach, both visually and thematically. Green didn't concern himself with modelling every pebble in his world, and he didn't concern himself with tying his story up in a neat little bow. It's one of those films the audience can relate to on a variety of levels.

This is Green's first and only film although, as he says, "I have a few ideas for another film when I can find some time." Let's hope he finds the time.

This film was in production over the course of roughly 7 months although due to other course commitments and projects most of the work was done during a hectic 3 month period at the end. The initial idea stemmed from a desire to create a humourous piece but without resorting to slapstick or re-hashed jokes. I have always enjoyed quirky, off-beat films so I wanted to come up with a ridiculous situation for my own short. I deliberately didn't wrap everthing up neatly at the end, leaving space for the viewer to interpret the film for themselves.

I chose to tell the story using a narration as I had seen a few other films that used this device very effectively and it allowed me to tell a larger story in a shorter space of time. I tried out a number of people to try to find the right voice for the main character but ended up having to do the voice myself.

The inspiration for the design of the characters and environments comes from a wide variety of artists that I admire such as Tim Burton. Whilst trying to develop my story I filled a sketchbook with doodles of numerous characters and locales. I tried to retain my favorite parts from these small designs for the final animation but due to time restrictions many concepts for background details had to be abandoned.

In terms of the films production I had help from my university tutor Phill Allen to refine the story and cinematography. The sound was produced by Katie Faulk, a sound design student from Bournemouth University and my coursemates were always there to offer their opinions on how things were working (or not) and to help keep me motivated. Everything else was completed on my own.

From the start I knew the overall look of the piece was going to be my focus along with an interesting story. I wanted interesting designs and the main technical focus was on the lighting and rendering. We were very lucky to have access to full Pixar Renderman licenses at university but in order to take advantage of this a lot of time was spent learning how to make use of some of its advanced features. Having never used Renderman before, initially it was quite a step to write sub-surface scattering and occlusion shaders but it was a very enjoyable learning experience.

Aside from having never made my own film before there quite a few other jobs that had to be done during the production which were totally new to me. I learnt so much from the whole project and am pretty sure I could do the whole thing a lot faster and to a higher standard knowing what I do now.

I definitely feel that the actual character animation is the weakest part of the finished piece but as it was never my focus and I had such a limited time period to complete it in I am not too dissapointed. Aside from the character animation and a few other small issues i am very pleased with the film.

-- Joe Green, November, 2007

No comments: