Sunday, 20 December 2009

"Soldier" - Bitter Ruin

So I completed the music video so details can now be revealed. I suppose the main reason for not giving out much information about a project is to svae you from any embarrasing confrontations if the project fails and the interested public continually ask "Whatever happened to the music video idea, it sounded awesome".

I decided to take this further and just not reveal what I was working on, even when I was pretty much finished. This was mainly due to not having the time to blog about it.

So here we go, the complete making of the music video Soldier by Bitter Ruin.

I first met Bitter Ruin back in June at the BirdEatsBaby album launch party. When performing they asked a very casual audience that they were interested in a video and if anyone had any ideas to let themselves known. I had no ideas, however bought there second EP and emailed them a day later to say I was interested in making a video for one of their songs. They happily agreed and that was that, Soldier was made.

At least I wish it was that simple.

Over the next couple of months I worked on ideas thinking of what would work best, and how I was going to make a video. The last full animation (and by full I mean animated short) I made was back in 2005, In Case of Zombies. Chris gave me the idea of doing something Jan Svankmajer-esque from there I remembered the story of The Brave Tin Soldier by Hans Christian Anderson. Now I don't read much so I just presumed any knowledge I have of stories will be common knowledge, not the case. As with John Otway on Jonny the Pessimist I had to remind a whole load of people about the story of a one legged tin soldier who falls in love with a ballerina and has an adventure to get to here only to end up in a fire with here at the end. (Here's a link if you want to read the full story - The Steadfast Tin Solider)

So I storyboarded the video and met up with the band to explain my ideas. All was going smoothly, I gave them my ideas, and they gave me their thoughts. The premise was that "someone" was building a War style diorama so had set out a variety of tool son the table, sewing things, work tools and paints along with the set "they" were building. This was where the soldier saw the ballerina. However rather than just recreating the story I flipped it around so that it's the ballerina trying to reach the Soldier, influence from the Jean Pierre Jeunet film A Very Long Engagement.

I was set to begin. I wanted a lot of actual First World War footage to play in the background of the soldier set. Therefore my plan was to create a lot of the video on the computer using Combustion to alter camera movements and so on. This was to avoid any lighting issues I would have with an actual green screen.

So at the end of July/early August I began work on the preparation side, building the set, designing the ballerina and guttering any props I needed.

Production kind of began towards the end of August when I took photos of the soldier and the set ready for composition in the computer. At the beginning of September I animated the ballerina. This went surprisingly well. I'd planned on having to pull an all-nighter just to get that thing done but found that id didn't quite tae m that long. Maybe watching A Mighty Wind and Hairspray helped. I don't know, but I finished all animation over a couple of days. Now things began to get complicated. In theory I had the majority of the scenes and could begin editing. Which I did to a degree. The soldier scenes couldn't be completed until I had the chosen war footage. The footage was all sourced online from the Internet Archive from the video, America Goes Over. I left this side of the film a while and worked on the ballerina. Most of this was simple, just a case of speeding up the animation. However there is a scene in the middle that in my head was simple but in practice drove me insane.

There is a shot where the ballerina is dancing go the edge of a table but as she is there a wind blows an assortment o f objects off the table. This was fine until I wanted the objects to fall off the table. It's pretty difficult animating with gravity. So I had a lot of importing and exporting, green screen masks and layers and composited the whole thing together. It was not simple however I was finally happy with the result, which unfortunately is only on screen for a few seconds. Did I waste my time? I don't think so, that's kind of the point of animation. Although you may not notice it the film just wouldn't be the same without the scene.

I met up with the band once again to update them on how things were going. They informed me of an idea that they were planning on having a screening launch night. I thought it was a great idea and agreed on the beginning of November. A couple of days later after working on the video some more, I changed the date to early December.

So production moved along until a fateful day in October when I got a job. This is a good thing, but it slowed done production having my days taken away. But still I plugged away. Until another fateful day in October WHEN MY PC BROKE. This caused me no end of stress and general anger. Especially when I had to take if back to PCWorld and couldn't find out what was going no until two weeks later when I got it back. So once again I began work. Until a further fateful day in October when I got a cold. OK so this wasn't so bad, but it was the first weekend I had on the video for a while and was planning on getting a whole chunk completed, and then I got instantly ill. I did as much as my brain could take and then had to focus on getting better. Now I had just over a month the finish the video.

So I spent the next three weeks filming the last remaining scenes, filmed the band and melted the soldier. This was obviously done last in case I needed reshoots. I managed to get the video completed by the last week of November, in time to have my birthday free, and giving me just over a week for any changes, which was needed.

The final cut was fine however there were concerns over the look of the film. I had opted for a black and white video to match the whole silent film feel of the video but it was later agreed that the original colour cut looked more visually appealing. I'm still fond on f the black and white though and it will probably appear online one day.

So it was complete, the last four months had been spent working on the video and it was time for the launch. In that time another video was being completed for the band to share the evening, and annoyingly it only took Mark Withers about two weeks.

Regarding the night, it was excellent. The audience really seemed to enjoy the whole thing. BirdEatsBaby provided support which put a whole full circle end to the story and the videos were screened to a great reception. The two videos are completely different to one another which is good as I was worried that the night would be spent comparing two pieces of work.

I had to provide a short speech, which I'm becoming a dab hand at, sort of. I said something, can't really remember what but it was relevant so all was good.

And without further ado, here's the complted video.

So that was the saga of Soldier from start to finish. Since completing the video I haven't really done anything. It is Christmas after all. That isn't to say that my brain is empty, I'll be spending the New Year writing another feature with Brother Chris (shhh!) and hopefully at some point get a long awaited live action short off the ground.

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