Velvet Sky + 1300 hours
Director / animator / compositor Brayden Gifford takes us through his latest work...
I just finished making a film clip for Sydney band ‘The Money Go Round’ for the song ‘Velvet Sky’.
The band were happy to let me take the time I needed which turned out to be around 1300 hours. I worked on my free days, about 1-2 days per week for around 15 months. I was given free rein to brainstorm, sketch and storyboard anything I wanted as I listened to the unfinished draft of the song.
Animating so many limbs at once is achievable with the use of SMP’s onion skinning and playback features, but makes you in awe of past achievements such as the group of skeletons that legend animator Ray Harryhausen animated in ‘Jason and the Argonauts’ on film with no playback or onion skinning to keep track of where the puppets where moving.
I made an animatic from my storyboard that I continually updated with new ideas and footage until all the animatic was replaced with finished shots. Making such a detailed animatic allowed me to see exactly the shots and angles that I needed so as not to build more sets and props than needed.
How did you make those puppets?
The construction of the puppets was metal ball and socket armatures covered in foam from inside a lounge cushion, and little balsa wood televisions for heads. I decided to go with replaceable silicon hands as the puppets would be expected to play their instruments a lot and would likely break. The bands members mother Robin made the funky little costumes to match my puppets size.My animatic featured objects coming to life around the band.
The round-about that turns into a spider that the band play on its back as it walks was particularly challenging. Rigging it to stand up or walk on the spot in front of a green screen was fine, but having it walk through the street set was the most problematic shot of the lot. Trying to keep a convincing position on the spider whilst animating the band playing and the 9 limbs of the spider all at once was probably the hardest shot I’ve ever animated. Removing the wires and dealing with problematic lighting on the shot made it one of the first shots started and one of the last shots finished.
I created a tree that would come to life and sway to the music. It was made from armature wire covered in foam and then wrapped in latex skin and painted with a latex/paint mix to keep the flexibility.
At one point we thought the guitarist was playing real chords - how did you do that?
I filmed the band playing the song in order to have reference footage to copy and make the puppets performance convincing. I essentially rotoscoped the live action, but preferred to not overlay the reference footage as the puppets didn’t have quite the abilities of the real band and I also pushed some of the poses further for exaggeration.Once I had finished all of the stop-motion animation, I then had to do all of the compositing. There were some standard green screen effects and particle effects but the time consuming part was putting the band into the tv heads of the puppets. I used Aftereffects to cornerpin each frame. This process is not actually matching the 3 dimensions that the puppet tv head is in, but distorts the 2d image and manually lining up the corners of the band footage with the corners of the puppet heads to give a fairly convincing result. It was quite painstaking to align the 3000 or so frames with tv’s in them.
Velvet Sky was an extremely satisfying project for me. I currently spend most of my time on really short deadline motion graphics, so having the opportunity to let an idea evolve and then spend the time needed to make it as you envision it was a rare opportunity.